THE heartbroken family of a man killed in a mine blast returned to the scene of his death to pray for him yesterday.
Hundreds of friends, relatives and co-workers arrived at Lisheen Mine in Tipperary at lunchtime to pay their respects to Joe Fallon (47).
Mr Fallon's sister, Sharon, spoke movingly on behalf of her family about the love that Joe had for his workmates, saying that she could feel their love for him yesterday.
Poignantly, a little teddy bear was placed next to the white cross where the dad of three -- who was expecting a new baby with his partner, Sara Bulfin -- had been working underground.
Mr Fallon, a mine captain from Two-Mile-Borris, was killed instantly in an explosion at the site which is located between the villages of Moyne and Templetuohy.
Prayers were said for Mr Fallon and his colleague, Chris Barlow, who survived the explosion and is in a stable condition in Cork University Hospital.
The pair had been working underground in the zinc mine when tragedy struck at around 6.30pm on Wednesday.
One line of inquiry is that Mr Fallon may have accidentally set off explosives inside the mine; however, an investigation is still under way by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and gardai to establish what sparked the explosion.
Anglo American -- the company which owns the mine -- organised two buses to bring the family to yesterday's ceremony. Many of the company's 370-strong workforce and members of the local community attended the service.
A smiling photograph of Mr Fallon was placed by the white cross where flowers and rosary beads were delicately laid by his grieving family. The teddy bear was a stark reminder of the loss of Mr Fallon's life at a time when he should be looking forward to the birth of his baby with Ms Bulfin, with whom he shared a home in Callan, Co Kilkenny.
Mr Fallon's parents, Joe and Breda, who were at the service, were said to be "deeply shocked", and "inconsolable" after the accident.
He is also survived by his wife, Eileen, from whom he had separated; his three children; his brothers Vinny and Kevin and sisters Sharon and Fiona. Mr Fallon's three children Jeff, Jack and Clodagh attended yesterday's prayers to pay their respects to their dad.
Bomb disposal experts visited Lisheen Mine on Thursday evening to remove a quantity of detonators that were scattered throughout the mine following the explosion.
The Defence Forces made the area safe to allow detectives and HSA investigators to conduct their examination of the scene.
Detonators are used by workmen during mining operations. Army experts removed several of these devices before making them safe in controlled explosions. They finished their work at 3.30am yesterday.