A tragic farm accident outside Belfast has claimed the lives of a father and his two sons, one of whom played rugby for Ulster and was regarded as one of Ireland’s rising stars.
Irish Wolfhounds player Nevin Spence died alongside his brother and their father after they fell into a slurry pit on the family farm at Hillsborough, according to the Irish Times.
Their sister is currently being treated for her injuries after the accident but is not believed to be in danger.
The 22-year-old Spence had trained with the Irish senior team last season and was part of the Ulster squad that lost the Heineken Cup final to Leinster last May.
Police confirmed that emergency crews were called shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday following reports that four people had fallen into the slurry pit.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it responded to a 999 call at about 6:15 p.m. and immediately sent three rapid response paramedics, four accident and emergency vehicles and an ambulance service doctor to the scene.
A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Three of the four people 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 have paid tribute to the Spence family.
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’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.”
Golfer Rory McIlroy, a keen supporter of Ulster rugby, also expressed his sympathies. He tweeted: “Just heard the tragic news of Nevin Spence and his family. Makes you cherish every day you have on this Earth.”