Nevin Spence and brother Graham were overcome by fumes as they tried to rescue their father Noel (Reuters)
Nevin Spence and brother Graham were overcome by fumes as they tried to rescue their father Noel (Reuters)   Reuters

The family of rugby star Nevin Spence, who died along with his father and brother in a farming accident on 15 September, have confirmed the three victims died while trying to save each other from a slurry task.

Ulster rugby player Nevin, 22, and his 30-year-old brother Graham died of fume inhalation while trying to save their 58-year-father Noel, who had fallen into the tank at the family farm on Drumlough Road, Hillsborough, County Down.

A fourth member of the family, Emma Spence, who also took part in the attempted rescue, has since been discharged from Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

It was originally reported the family fell into the slurry tank in an attempt to rescue their pet dog. However it has now been confirmed that the fall of Noel Spence precipitated the tragedy.

In a statement, grieving relatives said that the families were trying very hard to come to terms with the loss.

The family said: "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.

"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."

Nevin Spence was named Young Player of the Year at the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association Awards last year, and was a member of the Ulster Rugby squad that reached the European Heineken Cup final last season.

He made his debut for Ulster against the Ospreys in 2010 and played for the club 42 times.

Shane Logan, Chief Executive of Ulster Rugby, said: "I am deeply saddened by this tragic news. Nevin was a wonderful player but also a wonderful person.

"He was well liked by everyone who knew him and his loss will be deeply felt by his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby.

"He will be sorely missed and the thoughts of everyone involved in the game are with his family at this time."

A book of condolence has been opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for the three men.

There was also a one-minute silence in honour of the Spences at the All Ireland camogie final in Dublin's Croke Park.