Ulster star Spence dies while trying to save father in horrific slurry pit accident
09:14 GMT, 16 September 2012
Ulster centre Nevin Spence was killed alongside his brother and their father in a farming tragedy on Saturday which also injured their sister in Northern Ireland.
The 22-year-old rose to prominence playing for Ulster Rugby and was a rising star in Ireland's international rugby scene but died after falling into a slurry tank.
Emergency crews went to the family farm in Drumlough Road outside Hillsborough, Co Down, shortly after 6pm on Saturday following reports that four people had fallen into the slurry pit.
Shock: Professional rugby player Nevin Spence died along with his father and brother after falling into a slurry pit on the family farm
Terrible episode: Nevin died alongside his father Noel and brother Graham in the shocking accident on the farm
Following a lengthy rescue operation it was confirmed that three men had died and a woman was taken to hospital for treatment for the inhalation of fumes.
Nevin Spence was a member of the Ulster Rugby squad that reached the European Heineken cup final last season, and he was predicted to have a glittering international career ahead of him.
Rugby players and fans paid tribute to the young player on social media as news emerged of his involvement in the tragedy.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said on Twitter: 'Deeply saddened to hear of the tragedy in Hillsborough this evening. My thoughts and prayers are with family at this time of devastation.'
Promising: Nevin Spence had a bright future ahead of him as a professional rugby player
Tributes appeared on Twitter feeds representing both the British and Irish Lions and the RaboDirect Pro12, the league in which Ulster play.
The Lions post read: 'All our thoughts are with the family and friends of Ulster centre Nevin Spence, his father and brother. Reportedly died in accident.'
The post on the Pro12 account read: 'Shocked. We just read about Nevin Spence. RIP. There are no words.'
Spence's erstwhile Ulster team-mate, fly-half Ian Humphreys, wrote: 'Devastated to hear the news about Nevin Spence and his brother and dad. Prayers with all his family… RIP Nev, you'll never be forgotten…'
Former Ireland and Munster hooker Jerry Flannery added: 'Terrible news on Nevin Spence, his Brother and their Dad. Offering up prayers for their family and friends, unbelievably sad.'
Former Wales winger Shane Williams was also among those to pay their respects on the social media site, writing: 'My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Nevin Spence. A tragic loss. A class act on the field also. RIP.'
Lives have been lost in the past in accidents at other farm slurry tanks, but the scale of the latest tragedy caused widespread shock.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it responded to a 999 call at about 6.15pm following reports that at least three people had fallen into a slurry tank.
It said it immediately sent three rapid response paramedics, four accident and emergency vehicles and an ambulance service doctor to the scene.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service also attended and rescued four people from the slurry pit.
A spokesman for the ambulance service said: 'Three were unconscious and NIAS paramedics commenced resuscitation efforts immediately assisted by other ambulance personnel.
Tragedy: Large numbers of emergency service vehicles attended the farm
'One of the four showed initial signs of responding to the efforts of the crews and was transported immediately to the nearby Lagan Valley Hospital, where unfortunately he died a short time later.
'Despite the best efforts of all involved the other two men died at the scene.
'A female was treated at the scene and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where she is recovering from the effects of fume inhalation.'
The ambulance service said it extended its sympathies to those involved.
The Ulster Farmers' Union said the tragedy had shocked the entire farming community.
Stunned: Golfer Rory McIlroy (left) and snooker player Mark Allen (right) led tributes to Nevin Spence
UFU president Harry Sinclair said: 'On behalf of all our members, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family involved.
'This news has shocked the farming community. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the three men who have so tragically lost their lives.
'We understand that a fourth member of the family has been hospitalised and we pray that they will make a full recovery.'
Tributes also came from notable Northern Irish sportsmen Rory McIlroy and Mark Allen.
McIlroy, golf's world number one, wrote on his Twitter account: “Just heard the tragic news of Nevin Spence and his family. Makes you cherish every day you have on this Earth.'
Snooker star Allen added: 'What a loss for the family and for ulster and Irish rugby!! In shock here!!'
NEVIN SPENCE FACTFILE
1990: Born April 26 in Annahilt, Northern Ireland.
2009: June 5 – Scores a try on his Ireland Under-20 debut against Argentina.
2010: April 13 – Makes his professional debut for Ulster as a last-minute substitute against the Ospreys in what was then the Magners League.
December 18 – Scores his first try for the province to secure a Heineken Cup win over Bath.
2011: January 28 – Appears for the Irish Wolfhounds against Scotland A, his first of three appearances for the Ireland second-string side.
May 6 – Scores two tries in a 20-13 win over Newport Gwent Dragons to finish with five for the season.
May 29 – Features as a late replacement for the Ireland senior squad against the Barbarians at Kingsholm, having previously trained with the RBS 6 Nations squad.
September 15 – Killed along with his father and brother in an accident in a slurry tank on their family farm in Hillsborough, County Down.