911 calls released after man fails to emerge from sewer drain

Richard Brandenburg remains in critical condition at Mount Sinai Medical Center

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Miami Beach Police Department released 911 calls made after a 49-year-old man failed to emerge from a sewer drain as he looked for a woman's keys.

Richard Brandenburg remains in critical condition at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Witnesses told police Brandenburg offered to help a woman find her keys after they fell into a flooded storm drain at 74th Street and Ocean Terrace Tuesday evening. The woman was waiting for a locksmith, who delayed his call because the area was inundated with water after the heavy rains pounded South Florida.

"A guy needed to get her house key or some kind of key, so he went into the sewer and he went diving in and he never came out," a caller told a dispatcher.

"Did you see this? Did you actually witness this?" asked the dispatcher.

"I saw the guy go down," answered the caller. "I don't know. I saw half of his body as he was going down. And then… there was some people waiting for him. Then all of the sudden. He never came back up."

According to a Miami Beach police incident report, Brandenburg told the woman he previously worked on sewage systems. He drank a half-pint of white rum and smoked several cigarettes before removing the grate covering the drain, telling witnesses it would help him warm up because the water was cold.

Brandenburg entered the hole, returned, and smoked another cigarette, said police. He did this a second time.

The third time he entered the water, he didn't return, and police said the witnesses saw bubbles rising to the surface. They tried using a dog leash to help pull Brandenburg out of the drain.

When firefighters arrived, they pried open a manhole near the sewer drain and pulled Brandenburg out. He wasn't breathing and had no pulse, but rescue crews were able to revive him.