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One brother dies and another critical in sewer work accident

A MAN has died and his brother is in hospital fighting for his life after they were overcome by toxic fumes while working in a sewer.

The two men - who are cousins of Ireland soccer star Robbie Keane - were in an estate in north Dublin when the tragedy occurred.

Alan Harris (45), who is the owner of the Drain Tech firm, and his brother, Steve, were called to the Drumnigh Wood estate in Portmarnock after residents complained of a smell.

Shortly before 2.30pm yesterday, the workers entered a sewer. With colleagues from Drain Tech above, it is understood the first worker descended a short distance to conduct an initial, brief inspection.

It is believed he had only descended around 5ft when he was overcome by gas and lost consciousness. He then fell a distance into the sewer pit.


His brother immediately attempted to save his sibling and entered the sewer. However, he too was overcome by gases and also became unconscious. Emergency services were alerted by their colleagues.

Members of Dublin Fire Brigade rushed to the scene and set about entering the sewer after the two workers.

The first fireman to go underground also suffered breathing difficulties shortly after he entered. Two other firemen followed into the manhole before the first responder was brought up along with the two brothers.

Alan was declared dead while CPR was performed on Steve by emergency workers before he was transferred to hospital.

Three firemen were also treated at the scene and again later at hospital as a precaution.

Alan's wife, Tracy, left Dublin on Tuesday for a holiday with friends in Kusadasi, Turkey. The couple have been married for 22 years and have two children, Nicole and Alan junior.

Nicole travelled to the Portmarnock site when she was told about what happened. She accompanied her father to Beaumont hospital and was said to be "inconsolable".

Steve Harris remained in a critical condition in the intensive care unit.

An FAI official today confirmed that the brothers are first cousins of Ireland's record goalscorer Robbie Keane.

Keane only arrived into the Ireland camp on Tuesday and was last night mourning the loss of Alan in the tragedy that happened a short distance from the Irish team's hotel which is also in Portmarnock.

One local, Paula Mooney, said she saw the emergency services rush to the scene in the private housing estate.

"From what I understand, they had been working in a manhole. Some residents had been complaining about a bad smell near a pumphouse and because it is a private estate the lads were called in," she said.

Last night, a neighbour of Alan and Tracy Harris in Hazelbury Park in Clonee, where they lived, said they were shocked.

"They were really kind people. They have been here since before we got here, but they were always friendly. It is an absolute tragedy.

"Tracy is in Turkey on holiday. Imagine getting that news when you are on holiday. And from what I understand Alan Jr is away travelling as well."

Another neighbour said: "I just can't believe it. I only saw him the other day, it is such a tragedy. My heart is breaking for them. It was a family business, it is just a disaster," they said.


The Herald understands that investigations centres on whether the brothers had the correct protective breathing equipment before the tragedy unfolded.

The third officer for Dublin Fire Brigade, Gerry Stanley, said: "Regular maintenance work was being carried out in the sewer and one of these people got into difficulty and collapsed into the pit, one of his colleagues attempted to assist him and also got into difficulty.

"They were rescued from the pit, treated at the scene and sent to Beaumont Hospital," Mr Stanley said.

The Health and Safety Authority said that an investigation into the incident was under way.