A GRANDFATHER nearly died when he fell through a manhole cover into a septic tank.
Mike McGinnes landed feet- first in the 8ft-deep sewage pit and found himself with the foul-smelling liquid up to his mouth.
The pensioner said he feared for his life as he struggled to pull himself out of the stench-filled hole, increasingly alarmed that he might be choked by methane gas.
The septic tank was on land near Mr McGinnes's house in a remote location near St Erme, and his wife was out for the day. Nobody would have heard a cry for help from the 71-year-old, who had undergone a cataract operation the day before.
Mr McGinnes said: "As I walked over the top of our septic tank the manhole cover and frame just dropped into the tank beneath me.
"It was quite incredible – within a second I was in the tank."
The concrete support for the iron manhole cover had given way over time and finally crumbled under his weight.
"I was in it up to my mouth. I tried to swing up and get my elbows on the ledge and fell back in twice," he said.
"I managed to get my elbows up and by sheer effort pulled myself out."
Mr McGinnes said after the op on his left eye the previous day, the doctor had told him "not to exert myself".
He warned others to ensure their septic tank covers were in good condition and avoid an accident like his.
"I would have died, without a doubt," he said.
"The methane would probably have overcome me and that would have been it.
"Methane will asphyxiate you – it sits on top of the water and in the end you just can't breathe."
Mr McGinnes said his clothes and body were jet-black when he got out of the pit and he undressed as he walked up the garden towards the house.
A retired civil engineer who has worked all over the world, Mr McGinnes found himself also examining the quality of the engineering work of the septic tank from the inside as he regained his strength to make another bid for freedom.
"I thought the joints needed making good," he said.
The extreme danger of decaying sewage tank covers was made clear when Patricia Barden, a grandmother from Suffolk, died after falling into a cesspit last July when the lid collapsed.
Mr McGinnes's accident happened five months before, and he got in touch with the West Briton to share his story after reading a report of her inquest.