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An Athens police officer is recovering after being overcome by paint fumes while attempting to rescue a man who had also been overcome by fumes, an official said.

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said his department received a call at 9:30 a.m. from Keenum Excavation & Construction on U.S. 31 about a man in distress. According to dispatch reports, he had been painting the inside of a water tank on the back of a truck when his respirator came off.

Johnson said the caller stated those on the scene could not remove the man from the tank and that he was acting delusional. When officers arrived, they immediately realized he had been overcome by fumes and called Athens Fire & Rescue.

Johnson said one of the first officers on the scene, Sgt. Katrina Flanagan, realized she needed to act quickly because the man in the tank was gasping for air. She put on an air protector and entered the tank, but realized she wouldn't be able to get the man out on her own.

Johnson said one of the man's co-workers then climbed down into the tank, but was also overcome by fumes.

“The second employee then says, 'I can't breathe,' so she takes her air protector off and gives it to him,” Johnson said.

When the fire department arrived, firefighters were able to pull all three out of the tank. The chief said it was apparent the first worker and Flanagan would need to be taken to Athens-Limestone Hospital by ambulance. The second employee was also taken to the hospital to be checked out.

Flanagan was still at Athens-Limestone Hospital Monday afternoon, but Johnson said she was to be released the same day.

An attempt to reach someone at Keenum regarding the condition of their employees was unsuccessful Monday.

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