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Workers killed by vapours.

Byline: Brian Farmer and Alison Purdy

Three farmworkers died yesterday after being overcome by fumes in a slurry tank during a rescue attempt that went wrong. A fourth man escaped from the 12ft deep tank and needed hospital treatment for the effects of the fumes. The accident happened at 8am in a field near East Wretham, Norfolk.

Health and Safety Executive inspectors and police were last night examining the tank which stands yards away from the Norwich to London rail line.

Inspectors believe that one man tumbled inside after becoming overcome by fumes when he opened a hatch on top of the tank.

They think two other men then clambered in to try to rescue their workmate and were also overcome.

The fourth man is then thought to have gone to the aid of the other three but managed to get out alive.

He was released from the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds after treatment.

It is thought the men were preparing to spread slurry made from chicken waste on nearby wheat fields.

None of the victims has been named but police say they all worked for Thetford-based firm Enviro-Waste Ltd.

A statement from the company read: 'We wish to offer our deepest sympathy to all the families concerned with the tragic events earlier today.

'The loss of three highly valued members of our small staff has both shocked and saddened all of us.

'Our thoughts are with the families and we will continue to offer our full support.

'A comprehensive investigation is under way regarding the circumstances of the events and we will be co-operating fully with the Health and Safety Executive.'

Police said the three men were not likely to be named until today.

Nick Excell, divisional officer of Norfolk Fire Service, said they received a call at 8.09am reporting that three people were trapped in a 12ft deep vat at the edge of a field.

He said three crews were sent from Thetford, Watton and East Harling and they used breathing apparatus to try to rescue the three men.

'Tragically, despite the best efforts of our firefighters, we were unable to save the men.

'We are currently working closely with our colleagues at the HSE and Norfolk Police who are investigating the circumstances behind the tragic incident.'

A HSE spokeswoman said: 'It's a terrible tragedy and our thoughts are with the families of the dead men.

'We now need to establish exactly what happened and why but we have begun a joint investigation with Norfolk Police in an attempt to discover the exact circumstances.

'We cannot yet be 100 per cent certain what exactly was in the tank, how long it had been there and what kind of gases had been created.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 13, 2004
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