Tragic Harris brothers overcome by toxic fumes in sewer, inquest hears
TWO brothers overcome by fumes while working in an underground sewer died of hypoxia due to toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide.
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 Pk, Clonee, Dublin 15 died at Beaumont Hospital on June 10 last. His brother Stephen Harris of Monasterboice Rd, 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.
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’ wife Tracey.
The brothers were working for Alan Harris’ 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,” Insp 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.
The two deceased men are cousins of Irish soccer star Robbie Keane.
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.
The Harris family, Tracy with her children Alan (26) and Nicole (22).
Mr Kerins said a file would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as part of the ‘normal process in such cases.’ Insp Gordon said it was unlikely Gardai 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 from family members and 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. 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.
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