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Northern Irish farmer escapes with his life as cows are killed by slurry fumes

By Staff Reporter

Published 14/10/2016

A farmer is lucky to be alive after being overcome by fumes while mixing slurry in Co Fermanagh
A farmer is lucky to be alive after being overcome by fumes while mixing slurry in Co Fermanagh

A farmer is lucky to be alive after being overcome by fumes while mixing slurry in Co Fermanagh.

Five of the farmer's cows died in the incident at a farm in the Letterbreen area just before 8pm on Tuesday.

Firefighters from Enniskillen and Irvinestown wore breathing apparatus and used gas monitors to deal with the incident while the 30-year-old man was taken to hospital.

Firefighters using slings and manual handling equipment rescued three cows and four calves from the slatted shed and the animals were taken into the care of a vet at the scene. Three cows and two calves were found dead inside the shed.

The PSNI also attended the scene and confirmed that the farmer was treated for breathing difficulties before being released a short time later.

The Health and Safety Executive is currently investigating.

Slurry fumes contain a mixture of gases, including the extremely poisonous hydrogen sulphide. A low concentration of hydrogen sulphide can affect the sense of smell and at higher concentrations people can rapidly find it harder to breathe and may become confused.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Alex Baird told Enniskillen newspaper The Impartial Reporter that he was relieved that the farmer had survived.

"He is lucky to be alive because of the dangers of this gas.

"I know the family very well and I pray to God that he makes a full recovery.

"Slurry gas is such a silent and invisible killer and extra care needs to be taken.

"It's fortunate that this farmer is safe and it's a lesson to every farmer in the area to be vigilant," added Mr Baird.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott said: "I am a farmer myself, I know that farmers all over the county are under pressure at the moment.

"This is no doubt a traumatic time for the farmer and his family. There could have been a tragedy on our doorstep.

"I am just pleased it was not much worse and want to extend my best wishes to the farmer and hope he makes a full recovery."

With the closed period for slurry spreading due to commence at midnight on October 15, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is urging farmers to take extra care while mixing slurry.

"At certain concentrations, just one breath can kill," a HSE spokesman warned. "Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, your life may depend on it."

Between 2000 and May 2015, 11 farm deaths were caused by slurry.

In September 2012, Ulster Rugby player Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham died after they were overcome by fumes on the family farm. The inquest into their deaths heard it was the worst farming tragedy in Northern Ireland in 20 years.

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