Rugby star Nevin Spence, his father and brother die in slurry tank trying to save dog

 

A rugby player tipped as a future international star has died alongside his father and brother after what was thought to have been an attempt to save a pet dog from a slurry tank.

Two senior investigators from the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland (HSENI) were yesterday probing the deaths of Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence, his brother Graham, 30, and father Noel, 52, at the family farm near Hillsborough, County Down, on Saturday evening.

According to reports, a family dog fell into the tank before Noel attempted to retrieve it. His sons subsequently tried to rescue their father, but were overcome by the poisonous gases.

Last night the family released a statement saying the men had been very close and died "trying to save each other". "The families of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence are trying very hard to come to terms with their tragic loss," said the statement read by Rev Rodney Stout, senior pastor at Ballynahinch Baptist Church.

"The three men were very close to each other in life, and that love was expressed in their final moments trying to help one another. The family is being supported and comforted by other family members, friends and neighbours."

Two of the men were declared dead at the scene, while a third was taken to hospital, but died shortly afterwards.

Nevin, 22, had recently represented Ireland for the first time, but continued to work on the farm and had recently become a brand ambassador for the Dairy Council of Northern Ireland.

His sister, Emma, an artist, remained in a stable condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast yesterday after also entering the slurry tank and being treated for fume inhalation.

The HSENI said yesterday that the three deaths had been caused by exposure to slurry gases. The combination of cow manure and water is often stored in large, underground tanks on farms before being spread onto fields as fertiliser. Gases present in the tanks include methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and hydrogen sulphide.

"Hydrogen sulphide is extremely poisonous to both people and animals," says HSENI guidance. "It affects the nervous system causing symptoms which range from discomfort to sudden death."

Nevin Spence was a member of the Ulster Rugby squad that reached the European Heineken cup final last season. Last year he was named Young Player of the Year at the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association Awards.

Tributes were yesterday paid to the player and his family. "Such sad news and my thoughts go out to his family," tweeted New Zealand star Dan Carter. Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy, said: "Just heard the tragic news... Makes you cherish every day you have on this earth."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea