A young boy has been killed by exposure to fumes and his father left in a critical condition after a slurry put accident in County Antrim.
Robert Christie (8) was mixing slurry with his father on a farm belonging to a family friend near Donloy, County Antrim, when the pair were overcome by fumes from the pit. The father and son both collapsed, and the alarm was raised by a postman who was visiting the farm.
The emergency services were immediately notified, and Robert was airlifted to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite strenuous efforts, the medical staff present were unable to save the young boy’s life. His father-Bertie (52)-was taken to Causeway Hospital where he remains in critical condition.
The family has requested that no further details have been released about how the young boy was killed in the slurry pit accident. Barclay Bell-the deputy President of the Ulster Farmers Union-explained in a statement how such fatal accidents with slurry pits occur.
Mr Bell informed the press that slurry pits are pits that contain waste products produced by farm animals over the winter months. The waste stays in such pits over a period of several months, during which time a fatal combination of gases are created and released. The most dangerous of these gases is hydrogen sulphide.
The slurry pit’s contents are used to fertilise farmlands, but before it can be spread across the land, it needs to be mixed and agitated. This process releases the lethal fumes into the surrounding atmosphere, and it is difficult to know when they have diffused away as they are scentless gases.
The gases are denser than air, so they stay closer to the ground. This could explain how young Robert was killed in the slurry pit accident while his father only suffered an injury due to being less exposed, as he was higher up from the ground.
Keith Morrison – Chief Executive of Northern Ireland´s Health and Safety Executive said: “Incidents like this show starkly the dangers which our farming communities face and my heart goes out to those affected by this tragic accident”.