Trio died trying to save each other

A father and two sons killed in a farming tragedy in Northern Ireland died trying to save each other, their heartbroken family have said.

Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence, 22, was killed along with his 30 year old brother Graham, who is married with two children, and their 52-year-old father Noel.

They were overcome by gas after falling into a slurry tank at their farm on the Drumlough Road in Hillsborough, Co Down on Saturday night.

The sportsman's sister Emma, a well known artist, was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment for the inhalation of the fumes and her condition is described as stable.

There is widespread shock at the devastating blow to the remaining family members, Mrs Essie Spence and her daughter Laura.

And on Sunday night the grieving relatives said: "The families of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence are trying very hard to come to terms with their tragic loss.

"The three men were very close to each other in life, and that love was expressed in their final moments trying to help one another."

They added: "The family is being supported and comforted by other family members, friends and neighbours. Arrangements for a thanksgiving service for the three is currently under way and details will appear in the press in due course."

The statement was released by Rev Rodney Stout, senior pastor at Ballynahinch Baptist Church, who said the family asked the media to respect their privacy at this difficult time.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is investigating the circumstances to establish a clear picture of how events unfolded on Saturday night.