Northern Ireland

Health and Safety Executive invite by enterprise committee

Tractor on farm
Image caption The HSE said it is concerned after 20 fatal farm accidents in NI over the last 19 months.

The enterprise committee has agreed to invite the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) to appear before it.

It follows the death of four people in farming and industrial accidents.

Noel Spence and his two sons, Nevin and Graham, died after they were overcome by slurry gas at their farm in Hillsborough on Saturday.

Two days earlier, Fermanagh GAA player Brian Og Maguire died in an industrial accident at a factory in the Ballyconnell Road area of Derrylin.

Appearing at the committee on Thursday, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the deaths had given her "a lot of cause for concern".

She added the HSENI was investigating these "tragic events" and would bring forward a report.

Referring to the three family members who died at their Hillsborough farm, Mrs Foster said: "The scary thing was the amount of farmers, just in conversation, who said 'that nearly happened to me or I know someone who that nearly happened to'."

She said she intended to meet with the Spence family again to talk about farm safety,

The minister added she was aware that Northern Ireland Water had safety equipment used when going into areas with dangerous gases or fumes and this was something she would look introducing on a wider basis.

Mourners at the funeral of Noel Spence, 58, and his sons Ulster rugby player Nevin, 22 and Graham, 30, on Wednesday were told by his daughter Emma, that the father and sons had been "best friends".

The men had died while trying to save each other.

On Wednesday, the Health Minister Edwin Poots, a family friend of the Spence family, said Emma had twice tried to save her family members before she also was overcome by fumes.

The minister described her actions as "incredibly brave".

He explained that Graham Spence had entered the tank in a bid to rescue a dog which had fallen in.

The accident at the farm on Drumlough Road in Hillsborough is being investigated by the HSENI

It is also investigating the circumstances of the death of Mr Maguire.

The GAA player was part of the Fermanagh senior football squad.

He played in the half-forward line in the Ulster SFC quarter-final defeat by Down at Brewster Park in June this year.

He also played in two of Fermanagh's McKenna Cup games in January and in four National League games for the county.

Mr Maguire also helped his club, Lisnaskea, reach their first Fermanagh senior club final since 1996 this year, after captaining the team to All-Ireland intermediate success last year.

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