A FARMER has died after he dropped his mobile phone in some silage and was overcome by fumes when he tried to retrieve it.
Michael O'Keeffe (59), the former regional president of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) in the north-east, died on Friday when he inhaled fumes from plastic-covered silage on his farm in Kells, Co Meath.
It is understood he dropped his phone and was overcome when he went to get it.
Mr O'Keeffe was a former member of the society's national management council and former president of the Oriel region, which covers Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
His period as regional president expired in June, when he went to visit his son in Australia.
He was a member of the national co-ordinating committee, which oversees the day-to-day work of the society.
Liam Reilly, who succeeded Mr O'Keeffe as SVP regional president, said he was a "gentleman to his fingertips".
"He was available on the phone day and night for me, and at a minute's notice he would have driven from Kells to Dundalk – he was always there," he said.
"He was giving up his time day and night for the society."
Mr Reilly said he is still trying to come to terms with the shocking news.
"I still don't really believe it," he said. "He was such a gentleman. He had such a great commitment and had great empathy for the society and the work that we do.
"He was very generous. He believed that if there is need out there, we need to address that need."
SVP media spokesman Jim Walsh said Mr O'Keeffe would be sadly missed.
"He was a smashing character, larger than life with a lot of time for everybody and he's really going to be sorely missed," he said.
"The whole society and everyone who knew him are shocked by the news."
Mr O'Keeffe, who lost one of his legs from the knee down in a farming accident several years ago, is survived by his wife Ann-Marie and their three children.
His body is expected to be released to the family today after a post-mortem is completed.