Military Times
Honor The Fallen
Honoring those who fought and died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn
Search Our Database


Bookmark and Share

Air Force Staff Sgt. James T. Grotjan

Died July 12, 2018 Serving During Operation Inherent Resolve

26, of Waterford, Connecticut, died July 12 at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, from injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Grotjan was assigned to the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.


An airman died Thursday at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from injuries sustained while deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, defense officials said.

Staff Sgt. James T. Grotjan, 26, succumbed to injuries he suffered during a non-combat-related incident on July 8 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

“This is was a tragic event and our thoughts are with the family, friends and teammates of James,” said Col. Donn Yates, 4th Fighter Wing commander, accoring to the Goldsboro News-Argus.

“He was an integral part of our team and our hearts are heavy with his loss.”

The Waterford, Connecticut, native was assigned to the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

No additional details regarding the incident were provided.
Airman died after accidentally inhaling hydrogen sulfide in a manhole at Al Dhafra

Staff Sgt. James Tyler “Ty” Grotjan died last July after he inhaled hydrogen sulfide down a manhole, lost consciousness and fell off a ladder, according to an Air Force investigation report released Friday.

Grotjan, 26, was a water and fuel systems maintenance airman with the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, who was assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. He and five other airmen were preparing to clear out a clogged sewage line on July 8 when a fiberglass manhole cover fell down the roughly 17-foot shaft. The report said “there was a noticeable smell when the cover was removed.”

The team discussed how they might retrieve the cover, which needed to happen before they could start clearing the line. But before they finished coming up with a plan, Grotjan got his gloves from his truck and climbed down into the manhole. He grabbed the cover and started climbing back up.

“About one-third of the way up, he dropped the cover, began to hyperventilate, suffered a rapid loss of consciousness, and fell from the ladder,” according to the ground accident investigation report, which was released by Air Combat Command. “By then, he had been in the manhole for less than a minute.”

The rest of the team immediately called a rescue team, and two firefighters wearing protective equipment and breathing apparatuses descended. They found Grotjan’s skin was blue, he was unresponsive, not breathing, and had a weak or faint pulse. Before long, they could not detect any pulse.

The rescue team above assembled a tripod, lifted Grotjan out — he had been in the manhole for about 20 minutes in all —immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and loaded him into an ambulance. Medical personnel restored his heartbeat, but he remained unresponsive and unable to breathe, and medical tests showed no signs of brain activity. Three days later, he was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, but his condition did not improve. He was pronounced dead and removed from life support on July 12.

The report said Grotjan died of anoxic brain injury, or lack of oxygen to the brain, and hypoxemic cardiac arrest.

Grotjan was from Connecticut, and was about two months into a six-month deployment at the time of his death.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that smells strongly of rotten eggs and can be particularly dangerous when inhaled, leading to the “knockdown effect,” or abrupt loss of consciousness and falling. Several tests after the accident showed the lower two-thirds of the manhole had at least enough hydrogen sulfide to to be immediately dangerous, and possibly much more.

The base was also under “Black Flag” heat conditions that day, with temperatures reaching 117 degrees Fahrenheit.

View By Year & Month

2002   2001

Military Times
© 2018 Sightline Media Group
Not A U.S. Government Publication