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Power station worker killed after becoming trapped between rollers and belt of machinery

THE family of a man killed in a workplace accident in Longford have spoken of their shock and disbelief at how he died.

John O'Donnell, from Magheraveen in Lanesborough, Co Longford, died after becoming trapped in machinery at the Lough Ree power station as peat was being loaded to feed the plant.

Gardai, the Health and Safety Authority and Bord na Mona have launched three separate investigations into the accident.

His brother-in-law spoke last night of arriving at the scene shortly after the tragedy happened.

Emergency services were called at 1am as colleagues made frantic efforts to release him.

"He got caught between the rollers and the belt. It's unbelievable it happened to him because he was so conscious about safety," Pat Rock told the Irish Independent.

"I can't understand why he went in when the belt was spinning. The belts were bringing the peat up to the power station.

"We don't know if maybe his clothing may have got caught in the belt," he added.

Mr O'Donnell built his family home 40 years ago in Lanesborough after marrying his wife Mary. She passed away 16 years ago from breast cancer.

"He kept to himself and was a good, honest man. He minded his own business and if you had anything needed doing he would help you without wanting anything in return," said one neighbour.

"He was a very quiet, unassuming man. He used to do work in the homes of his neighbours and would never accept money or anything in return.

"He was a devout Catholic and attended Mass regularly," local parish priest Fr Michael Reilly from St Mary's in Lanesborough added.

Bord na Mona expressed its sympathy.

"The company has begun an internal inquiry into the circumstances of the man's death. Our deepest sympathies go to his family, friends and colleagues," it said.

Local councillor and neighbour Mark Casey (Independent) said Mr O'Donnell was "a fitter with Bord na Mona for a long number of years".

Mr Casey added: "He was a very quiet man. He lost his wife, Mary, 16 years ago. It's just an awful tragedy."

The ESB, which owns the plant, said it was aware of the incident, which happened on an area of the site managed by Bord na Mona.

A spokesman for the HSA said an inspector arrived on site yesterday morning.

Originally from Donegal, Mr O'Donnell carried out an apprenticeship as a fitter with Bord na Mona at the Longford power station when he was 17.

He had worked there ever since. He also played an active role in the fitters' trade union organisation at the Bord na Mona site.


Mr O'Donnell was last seen by colleagues in the plant at 3pm on Tuesday.

The alarm was raised afterwards and his body was discovered at 12.30am yesterday jammed between the conveyor belt and the roller.

His 25-year-old son, Eoghan – who had been living in Australia before moving to the UK, where he works as an engineer – was informed of the tragedy yesterday.

Mr O'Donnell is also survived by his two sisters, Ann and Mary, and mother Margaret, from Kilcar in Co Donegal.

Irish Independent