Great Falls, MT – Rick Higgins was working on a water storage cistern in the basement of a building at a subdivision he’s developing south of Great Falls when his wife, Judy, found him unconscious.

“I wasn’t aware I was asphyxiated by the carbon monoxide, but I could tell I had some issues, and that’s why I tried to get out of there,” Rick recalled. “And basically, I collapsed before I got out of the basement.”

Higgins, 75, is lucky to be alive and that his wife came along when she did.

Rick and Judy Higgins are developing River Bend Estates, a housing subdivision off of Flood Road south of Great Falls.

On Oct. 17, a Thursday, they were working on a 75,000-gallon cistern that’s located in a 8-foot-high basement enclosed in a 32-by-42-foot building.

Judy left for about an hour to pick up her dog from a groomer and fix a sandwich for Rick as he continued the maintenance work.

She returned at about 1 p.m. and found her unconscious husband.

A Mercy Flight helicopter transported Rick to Benefis Health System, where both Rick and Judy were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Judy had been working in the basement too and wasn’t feeling well before she left.

Rick’s treatment didn’t end at Benefis.

At 10 p.m., he was flown by airplane to Billings. By midnight, he was breathing oxygen in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber. He underwent two additional treatments over the next two days.

He returned to Great Falls on Saturday.

On Tuesday morning, he was before Cascade County commissioners who were deciding on the final plat of phase 2 of his subdivision where he was working when he nearly succumbed.