Rory and Brian's tributes to Nevin after farm tragedy

Claire Murphy- See sport

BRIAN O'Driscoll and Rory McIlroy have paid tributes to tragic Ulster rugby ace Nevin Spence, who died with his dad and brother in an accident on their farm.

Nevin (22), who had lined out for both Ulster and Ireland, was killed in a slurry tank accident at the family farm near Hillsborough, Co Down, on Saturday.

It is understood the accident occurred when the trio attempted to rescue a family dog in a tunnel below the slurry tank.

Noel (52) fell in as he tried to rescue his pet dog and then Graham (30), who is married with two children, went to the aid of his father.

Nevin and his sister Emma tried to save both their father and brother. All three men lost their lives.

Emma was released from hospital today after being treated for fumes inhalation.

The North's Heath and Safety Executive said all three men had been overcome by fumes and the investigation is continuing. The three men are survived by their wife and mother Esme and daughters Emma and Laura.

Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll expressed his shock and sympathy at the loss.


"Devastating news about Nevin Spence, his dad and brother," he said. "What a wonderful talent he was. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Golf star Rory McIlroy said that the tragic story made him reassess his own life.

"Just heard the tragic news of Nevin Spence and his family. Makes you cherish every day you have on this Earth."

A statement released by the family described the men as being very close.

"The families of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence are trying very hard to come to terms with their tragic loss," the statement said. "The three men were very close to each other in life, and that love was expressed in their final moments trying to help one another."

New Zealand rugby star Dan Carter said: "Such sad news and my thoughts go out to his family." And David Humphreys, Ulster director of rugby, said Nevin showed "passion" and "enthusiasm" every time he played.


"The characteristics that he showed when he played, those were very much transmitted when into how he conducted himself off the pitch."

Tyrone GAA released a statement, saying: "We stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in Ulster Rugby. God bless the family and friends of Nevin Spence, his brother and dad."

And Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said: "Deeply saddened to hear of the tragedy in Hillsborough this evening. My thoughts and prayers are with family at this time of devastation."

A book of condolence was opened today at Ulster Rugby ground Ravenhill. Harry Sinclair, president of the Ulster Farmers' Union said that the family were well-known and respected dairy farmers in the community in Down.

"The gas that is released during the mixing of slurry, there is no smell from it, which is where the real danger is," he said.

"In Northern Ireland we have had a lot of farm fatalities over the last 18 months -- 23 people died -- a number of those were related to slurry accidents.

"It is a very dangerous job. A lot of families are in shock, it could be any one of us."