Young rugby star killed in slurry tragedy

 

The death of a young rugby star, his brother and their father in a farming tragedy in Northern Ireland has caused deep shock and disbelief, community leaders said tonight.

Investigators are still examining the circumstances of the accident in Co Down, which is believed to have unfolded as the loved ones came to each other's aid after falling into a slurry tank at their farm in Hillsborough.

Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence, 22, was killed along with his 30 year old brother Graham, who is married with two children, and their 52 year old father Noel.

The sportsman's sister Emma, a well known artist, was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment for the inhalation of fumes and her condition is described as stable.

There is widespread shock at the devastating blow to the remaining family members, Nevin's mother Esme and his sister Laura.

Emergency services went to the family farm in Drumlough Road outside the Co Down village shortly after 6pm on Saturday following reports that four people had fallen into the slurry pit.

Investigations into the cause of the tragedy are ongoing, amid unconfirmed reports that the family died trying to save one another, or that the tragedy may have been sparked by efforts to save a dog from the slurry tank.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is to investigate the circumstances and establish a clear picture of how the tragedy unfolded.

It said: "From HSENI's initial investigations, it understands that the three family members who entered an underground slurry tank died from the effects of exposure to slurry gases.

"The exact sequence of events is not yet clear but HSENI is investigating a definite line of enquiry."

Three other people have died on Northern Ireland farms from slurry gas over the last ten years.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton said the scale of the latest tragedy had stunned people: "We are all left in a state of bewilderment and shock in the wake of this tragic accident.

"I know that prayers were said in many churches this morning and I would assure the Spence family of our continuing support in both public and private devotions as we pray for them at this awful time and for Emma's speedy recovery."

He said each of the three men who died had touched the lives of many in sport and farming circles.

Nevin Spence was already a star of the Ulster Rugby team and was tipped to have a glittering international career ahead of him.

At Ulster's home stadium of Ravenhill in Belfast his former colleagues were visibly shaken by news of the tragedy.

Chief executive of Ulster Rugby Shane Logan said: "I am deeply saddened by this tragic news.

"Nevin was a wonderful player but also a wonderful person.

"He was well liked by everyone who knew him and his loss will be deeply felt by his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby.

"He will be sorely missed and the thoughts of everyone involved in the game are with his family at this time."

He said Nevin was "a man of absolute integrity, complete determination, great humility, a fine team player, and an all round exceptional individual".

One of Ulster's most famous former players David Humphreys, who is now director of professional rugby at the club, said he was overwhelmed by the loss of a man he had watched rise through the ranks.

"There was huge potential," he said, citing highlights of a career already packed with achievement.

But he also recalled Nevin as a player who was hugely popular off the pitch, and added: "You just need to listen to some of the conversations with our players over the last 24 hours.

"All of us are struggling to come to terms with what has happened."

Nevin was a member of the Ulster Rugby squad that reached the European Heineken cup final last season, and he was predicted to have a major international future ahead of him in the game.

The former Wallace High School player was last year named Young Player of the Year at the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association Awards.

Sports stars, fans of the young rugby player and friends of the family have paid tribute to Nevin and his bereaved relatives, and floral tributes were today left otuside Ravenhill.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said they were deeply saddened by the tragic accident.

The Ministers said: "This tragedy has shocked the entire community and is a terrible reminder to us all of the dangers of farming life. Our thoughts are also with farmers everywhere at this time.

"Nevin was a rising star of local rugby and it is only a matter of months ago, in happier times, that we had the honour of hosting him and his colleagues at a reception in Parliament Buildings to celebrate the achievement of Ulster in reaching the Heineken Cup final.

"His untimely death is a blow for the game in the province and we sympathise with his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby who have lost a true colleague and friend."

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said the deaths had shocked the entire farming community.

UFU president Harry Sinclair said: "On behalf of all our members, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family involved."

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it responded to a 999 call at about 6.15pm following reports that at least three people had fallen into a slurry tank.

It said it immediately sent three rapid response paramedics, four accident and emergency vehicles and an ambulance service doctor to the scene.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service also attended and rescued four people from the slurry pit.

Paramedics attempted to resuscitate the men, and while one showed initial signs of responding to treatment, all three died.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence