Ulster's Spence dies in family farm tragedy
Ulster and Irish Wolfhounds rugby player Nevin Spence has died alongside his brother and their father in a farming tragedy which also injured their sister in Northern Ireland.
Spence, 22, rose to prominence playing for Ulster and was a rising star in Ireland’s international rugby scene and had trained with the senior squad during the last Six Nations campaign.
Spence died after falling into a slurry tank at the family farm at Drumlough Road outside Hillsborough. Emergency crews were called shortly after 6.0pm on Saturday following reports that four people had fallen into the slurry pit.
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.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it responded to a 999 call at about 6.15pm.
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.
“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.”
Rugby players and fans paid tribute to the family 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.”
Spence was a member of the Ulster squad that reached the Heineken Cup final last season, and he was predicted to have a glittering international career ahead of him.
After an injury-hit start to the season, he played for the Ulster Ravens, the province’s reserve side, against Munster A at Deramore Park in Belfast on Friday.
Spence’s Ulster team-mate Ian Humphreys tweeted: “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.”
Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, a keen supporter of Ulster rugby, expressed his sympathies, tweeting: “Just heard the tragic news of Nevin Spence and his family. Makes you cherish every day you have on this Earth.”