Fireman almost died in bid to save brothers

Stephen and Alan Harris, who died in June 2015.

A toxic gas tragedy that claimed the lives of two brothers almost killed a firefighter attempting to rescue them, an inquest has heard.

Alan, 45, and and Stephen Harris, 32, were overcome by fumes while working in a sewer at Drumnigh Woods, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, on June 10, 2015.

They were recovered and rushed to hospital but died of hypoxia due to toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide.

Alan Harris, of Hazelbury Pk, Clonee, died at Beaumont Hospital within hours. Stephen Harris, of Monasterboice Rd, Crumlin, died two days later. They had been conducting sewer works at a development of 145 houses built in 2004.

Pumps engineer Gabriel Hoyle was a subcontractor working on the same job.

He said

: “Stephen was frantic. He was standing on the ladder shouting for Alan and then said, ‘Lads help me, Alan’s after falling down.’ His voice was deteriorating as if he was being overcome. He was saying ‘Please help me, help me get Alan.’”

He told Dublin Coroner’s Court that he shouted to Stephen ‘get out now while you still can’.

“But he carried on down. The last thing I saw was him falling under the sewage at the bottom of the ladder.”

Firefighter Ger Coughlan responded to the emergency call at 2.30pm.

Wearing a breathing apparatus, he climbed down the chamber into waist-height sewage. He said there was water entering the chamber and the level was rising. His mask was displaced as he tried to lift one of the injured and he took a gulp of air.

“It was like someone pressed a switch, cutting off all my energy. My arms and legs were like lead. I was five seconds away from losing consciousness.

“I knew I had to get myself out or I wasn’t coming out,” he said.

Dublin Fire Brigade updated its procedures after the incident to send specific equipment to similar calls.

Extra confined space training has been introduced.


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