TWO friends who were killed when a tractor tyre exploded had probably inflated wheels hundreds of times before without incident, friends of the pair said yesterday.
Health and Safety Authority experts, who recommend tyres are blown up inside a cage, spent yesterday examining the scene where two Co Donegal men died on Friday night.
Seamus Hegarty (52) and Kevin Woods (52) had been working in potato fields near Crossroads, Killygordon, in east Donegal when the accident happened at 6pm.
The men had gone to school together and had been lifelong friends since the age of four. They had hired fields close to Red Hughs GAA club and had been gathering potatoes.
"They would have blown up tyres hundreds of times in the past without a problem," said a close friend at the scene yesterday. "This time something went wrong, horribly wrong."
Mr Hegarty was a married father of four, with children aged between seven and 18.
Raphoe parish priest Father Denis McGettigan said the entire community was in deep shock. "It is very tragic really as here we have two very close friends who lived only slightly over 400 metres apart. I have visited both houses and both families are in a deep sense of shock as are the entire community. This was a very unusual and exceptionally sad turn of events.
"Seamus Hegarty leaves a wife and four young children behind, while Kevin Woods lost his mother only last year."
Ambulance crews raced to the scene but both men had died instantly. Garda forensic experts spent the night examining the scene before the remains of the two men were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital for a post-mortem examination yesterday morning.
Local councillor Frank McBrearty said the deaths had left the community stunned. "It's a time when people are looking forward to Christmas and having their families around them and for two of our families here it is too devastating for words."
The Hegartys were particularly well known. Seamus's brother, Paul, is a former Derry City and Finn Harps player and coach. He has been inundated with messages of support from players and coaches from throughout Ireland.