UK & World News
Slurry Deaths: Funeral For Rugby Star And Family
The sister of a rugby star who died with his father and brother in a tragic farm accident has paid an emotional tribute to them at their funeral.
Nevin, 22, brother Graham, 30, and their father Noel, 58, all died last Saturday when they were overcome by slurry fumes at the family farm in County Down.
Sky's Ireland correspondent David Blevins said hundreds had gathered for a "service of thanksgiving" at Ballynahinch Baptist Church in County Down.
Nevin's sister Emma, who survived the tragedy, said at the ceremony: "They were gentlemen, they were hard-working men, they were not perfect but they were genuine, they were best friends.
"They were godly men, they didn't talk about God, they just did God, they were just ordinary but God made them extraordinary."
Miss Spence, who needed hospital treatment after the accident, was accompanied by her sister Laura, their mother Essie and Graham's wife Andrea at the funeral service.
Men of all ages stood silently and women wept as Emma spoke.
"Dad, he was the one, who at 58 years of age, still had the most natural, bright blonde hair any women would kill for," she said.
"Graham, he was the one who adored his Andrea and his kids, his little princess and his wee mate.
"Wee Nev, he was the one who did not love the limelight but handled it like a pro."
Members of the Ulster Rugby team carried Nevin's coffin, draped in his rugby shirt, into and out of the church.
Irish rugby coach Declan Kidney and Tyrone Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte were among other well-known sporting faces amid more than 2,000 people who attended.
The senior pastor, Rev. Rodney Stout, described the men as "three peas in a pod".
"It is no exaggeration to say that what these three men have left behind is as positive a legacy as any family could have.
"We know from a human perspective we wish that legacy could have been delayed for many years yet but that was never within our power to control."
The three men all died trying to save each other after entering the slurry tank in a bid to retrieve the family dog.
Before the service, details of how Miss Spence bravely battled to rescue her family emerged.
Neighbour and family friend Edwin Poots revealed the artist twice climbed into the slurry tank at the farm near Hillsborough.
He said Graham first entered the tank to save the dog, lowering down a ladder. When he got into trouble, his father went in. Nevin followed because by then, they were both in danger.
Miss Spence rushed to help and managed to pull her father onto the ladder. He was brought out and onlookers fought to revive him.
Meanwhile, his daughter went back and found her brother Graham lying on the floor of the tank. She was then overcome by the odourless fumes and had to be rescued by neighbours who heard calls for help.
Mr Poots, a health minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, said: "Emma risked her own life to try and save her father and brothers. Physically I don't know how she managed it because her dad is a big man.
"With the weight of the slurry and so on, she needed to muster unbelievable strength to get him pulled up and then she went back in again, risking her life a second time.
"It is maybe some comfort to the family she didn't lose her life. She was incredibly brave."
Health and safety experts are carrying out an investigation into the tragedy, which happened last Saturday.