Monday 19 February 2018

Poisonous gas claimed lives of brothers working in sewer

Tragic brothers Alan (left) and Stephen Harris died after being overcome by toxic concentrations of hydrogen sulphide
Tragic brothers Alan (left) and Stephen Harris died after being overcome by toxic concentrations of hydrogen sulphide

Louise Roseingrave

Two brothers overcome by fumes while working in an underground sewer died due to toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide, an inquest heard.

Brothers Alan (45) and Stephen (32) Harris were working on a sewage drain at Drumnigh Woods estate in Portmarnock, Co Dublin, when the accident occurred last June.

Alan Harris, of Hazelbury Park, Clonee, Dublin 15, died at Beaumont Hospital on June 10. His brother Stephen Harris, of Monasterboice Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, died two days later.

Both men died as a result of hypoxia, secondary to exposure to toxic concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

The two deceased men are relatives of Irish soccer star Robbie Keane.

A double inquest into the brothers' deaths was opened and adjourned before Coroner Dr Brian Farrell and members of the Harris family, including Alan Harris's wife Tracey.

The brothers were working for Alan Harris's family company Harris Draintech at the Portmarnock estate on the evening of Wednesday, June 10, 2015, when the accident happened.

The pair were working in a pit, part of an underground drainage system, when they were overcome by toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide, a deadly colourless, poisonous gas.

"The two brothers were working at the housing estate Drumnigh Woods in Portmarnock on an underground drainage system.

"They were self-employed, working for Alan's company, a family company," Inspector John Gordon of Coolock Garda Station told the inquest.

Darren Harris, a brother of the two deceased men, gave evidence of identification of Alan Harris at the double inquest.

Asked by the coroner how many were in the family, Mr Harris said there were five brothers and one sister.

"It's hard, because it has changed," he said before answering the coroner.

Derek Harris gave evidence of identification of his brother Stephen.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Inspector Frank Kerins and Insp Gordon made a joint application for an adjournment of the inquest under Section 25, Subsection 1 of the Coroner's Act pending completion of the investigation.

Mr Kerins said a file would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as part of the "normal process in such cases".

Insp Gordon said it was unlikely gardaí would send a file to the DPP, as no third party was involved.

The coroner agreed to make the full autopsy report available to family members following a request.

He said he would further examine the details of the brothers' deaths at a full hearing of the inquest.

Adjourning the inquest for further mention to March 8, 2016, Dr Farrell extended his "deepest condolences" to family members.

"I'm so sorry to hear of Alan and Stephen's deaths," he said.

"I'm aware of the some of the circumstances. I want to say how very sorry I am.

"This is a double tragedy and it must be devastating for all the family," Dr Farrell said.

Irish Independent

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