Lonnie Gotto, 72, who perished as a result of burns suffered Jan. 25 while cutting a hole through a tank with an arc welder on his property near Fults, was a scrap metal hobbyist with a passion for welding, relatives said.
“My dad died doing what he loved to do,” said his son, Marlon Gotto.
Marlon said his father was not using an acetylene torch, as was initially reported. Rather, Lonnie was using an arc welder machine to burn a large hole through an old 200-gallon fuel tank when some sort of accident occurred.
“We really don’t know for sure what happened,” Marlon Gotto said. “My dad had done this many times and was very experienced in welding.”
After he was burned, Lonnie went inside his home at 3642 Maus Road and into the basement, Marlon Gotto said. Lonnie’s wife thought it was “odd” he was down there, so she went to check on him.
“The tank outside was still smoldering,” Marlon told the Republic-Times. “As far as I know, there was no fuel found on the ground there.”
Lonnie Gotto was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital from the Monroe County ambulance garage in Waterloo after emergency personnel transported him from the scene.
Gotto, who was retired from Brinkmann Farm Equipment, Heberer Farm Equipment and Wm. Nobbe & Co., was pronounced dead from his injuries a short time later at the hospital.
He leaves behind a wife, Mary Leah, along with four children, six grandchildren, and other relatives and friends.
Welding was “purely a hobby” to Lonnie, his son stressed, and he would regularly haul metal over to a scrap yard. Any money earned from this would go back into the hobby, paying for equipment and fuel costs.
“He was a great man… a real unique individual,” Marlon Gotto said. “We sure will miss him.”