Two people searching for treasure beneath an old Mexican hacienda died in a gas-filled tunnel, and two neighbors and two emergency workers who tried to rescue them also perished, authorities said.
"It appears they were looking for some treasure, from the era of the hacienda," said Jose Luis Cruz, a police officer in the central Mexican town of San Jose del Rincon where the deaths occurred.
"It's a belief around here. It is said that people have found treasure around there before," he said yesterday.
Sergio Ramirez, director of emergency services for the State of Mexico, said a man, 65, and his 60-year-old wife were the first victims.
They were looking for loot in the 15-meter-deep tunnel, which burrowed about 50 meters horizontally underground toward the abandoned hacienda residence.
Two local construction workers entered the primitive, earthen-walled tunnel to rescue the couple, apparently unaware of a dangerous buildup of exhaust fumes from a gas-powered pump the couple had installed in the tunnel to remove water.
The two would-be rescuers also died, as did a firefighter and a paramedic from nearby towns who later entered the tunnel without oxygen tanks.
It took specially equipped rescue personnel about 20 hours to remove the six bodies.