A contractor fell into a well at Buffalo's sewage treatment plant on Thursday and was likely killed after being swept into a "very intricate intake system," authorities said.
Firefighters and police were called to the Buffalo Sewage Authority Treatment Plant at about 11 a.m. after the private contractor fell about 15 feet into waters that were at least 30 feet deep, officials said.
Buffalo police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said the contractor ended up in "a well which is extremely deep" and into a system that "connects itself eventually to the Niagara River."
By mid-afternoon, underwater and swift-water rescue teams deemed their task to be a "recovery mission" rather than a "rescue" operation, police Capt. Rinaldo and Buffalo fire Commissioner William Renaldo both said.
The worker was not wearing a flotation vest and his rope wasn't tied to any anchor.
"Once he fell into this confined space, it’s a very intricate intake system that meanders into a lot of different areas. So it’s a very difficult process to find out exactly where he could have been (taken)," Renaldo told reporters.
"We were hoping he was in an area of safe refuge. But at this point we don’t believe this is the case."
By late afternoon, authorities said they believed the worker's body was still on Buffalo Sewage Authority grounds and had not been swept into the river.
"There's hundreds of feet and it goes in several directions," Commissioner Renaldo said. "And between that and the river is also a turbine area as well."