Wednesday 13 December 2017

Brothers were killed by colourless, poisonous gas after working in sewer

Brothers Alan (left) and Stephen Harris died in a work accident
Brothers Alan (left) and Stephen Harris died in a work accident

Two brothers overcome by fumes while working in an underground sewer died of hypoxia due to toxic levels of a poisonous gas, an inquest has heard.

Alan and Stephen Harris were working in the sewer drain at Drumnigh Woods estate in Portmarnock, Co Dublin, when the accident happened last June.

Alan (45), of Hazelbury Park, Clonee, died in Beaumont Hospital on June 10. Stephen (32), of Monasterboice Road, Crumlin, 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's wife, Tracey.

READ MORE: Tragic Harris brothers overcome by toxic fumes in sewer, inquest hears

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

READ MORE: 'Special moment' as Dubs bring Sam to grave of tragic Alan Harris

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


"They 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 men, gave evidence of identification of Alan. Asked by the coroner how many were in the family, Darren said there were five brothers and one sister.

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

READ MORE: 'I know he'll be there with us' - emotions run high for family of tragic Dubs fan Alan Harris

Derek Harris gave evidence of identification of Stephen.

The siblings are relatives of soccer star Robbie Keane.

Health and Safety Authority inspector Frank Kerins and Insp Gordon made a joint application for an adjourn- ment of the inquest pending completion of the investigation.

Mr Kerins said a file would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecution 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 them, 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 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," he said.

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