3 Hog Hunters Die Trying to Rescue Their Dog from a Gas-Filled Cistern

The hunters had tracked the dog's GPS collar to a wide hole in a cornfield
Katie Hill Avatar
texas hog hunting victims

The Bastrop County Sheriff's Office released photos of two of the three victims: Denise Martinez (left) and Vigil-Benitez (right). It is unclear if the dog in the photo was the dog that died during the incident. Bastrop County Sheriff's Office / Facebook

A devastating accident involving a runaway hunting dog and an uncovered cistern containing water and hydrogen sulfide gas resulted in the deaths of three hog hunters from Florida on August 9, the Associated Press reports.

The incident occurred just outside of Austin, Texas, in a cornfield off County Road 461. Four hog hunters—three from Florida and one local—were preparing for a night hunt. But their dog, described as a bloodhound, escaped the vehicle as they were getting ready. The group tracked the dog’s location using a GPS collar and eventually found it had fallen into an open water reservoir in the cornfield. The hole was about four feet wide. One of the hunters tried to rescue the dog by jumping into the cistern, which was full of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. Two other hunters removed some clothing before jumping in to rescue both the man and the dog. The three Florida hunters—Delvys Garcia, 37; Denise Martinez, 26; and Noel Vigil-Benitez, 45—died in the incident, as did the dog.

The surface of the water was about six feet below the top of the cistern, making escape impossible without assistance from above. The noxious fumes from the hydrogen sulfide gas are believed to have overpowered the victims while simultaneously making the water less dense and therefore harder to float in, USA Today reports. Hydrogen sulfide gas is common in wells and septic tanks. The hole contained carcasses of other animals that had previously fallen in.

The fourth hunter, who was hosting the hunt at the time and remains unnamed, reported the incident to local authorities at 1 a.m. Six dive teams turned down requests for assistance, reluctant to enter the gaseous cistern to attempt recovery. Eventually, authorities drained the water and ventilated the gas before flying a drone into the tank to investigate the integrity of the walls. Once the hole was free of water and toxic fumes, a deputy entered the hole three separate times to extract the bodies of the three hunters and the dog. The hunters’ bodies were then transported to the Travis County medical examiner’s office for autopsies.

Read Next: California Fishermen Save Two Teenagers from Drowning in Monterey Bay

Investigation into the timeline of the incident is ongoing. The authorities did not mention any suspicion of foul play. Family members organized GoFundMe accounts for Martinez, Vigil-Benitez, and Garcia, the latter of who leaves behind a wife and two kids, according to the GoFundMe page.

“It’s a sad day whenever it ends like it did [Wednesday],” Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook said in a news briefing on August 10. “Can you imagine? You have loved ones and they come to Texas to hunt and then it ends like this, which was a sad tragedy that just happened.”