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Investigation opens after man killed at Corrib pipe tunnel site

Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

German national suffered head injuries in incident 1.8km below north Mayo estuary

Investigations are under way into the death of a young German national who was killed in a workplace incident in the Corrib gas tunnel under construction in north Mayo.

The man, who was single and in his mid-20s, sustained fatal head injuries early yesterday morning in the tunnel currently being dug some 1.8km below Sruwaddacon estuary when a compressed air pipe reportedly came free.

It is understood that the man was a mechanical fitter attached to the maintenance support crew for Herrnknecht, the German sub-contractor which built the tunnel boring machine hired for the final section of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.

He was pronounced dead when his body was brought to the surface after 9am, and arrangements were made for removal to Mayo General Hospital, where a postmortem was due to be carried out by Dr Fadel Bennani, consultant pathologist.

The young man had worked periodically at the Aughoose work site from November 2012, when construction of the 4.9km long tunnel began as part of a 15-month programme. It is understood that he had recently returned from a visit home.

The Health and Safety Authority sent two inspectors to north Mayo, while gardaí were also informed and intiated an investigation.

In a statement, contractor Wayss & Freytag BAM Civil Joint Venture said it confirmed that “a tragic incident occurred at the Corrib tunnel site at Aughoose in north Mayo shortly before 9am this morning resulting in a fatality”.

“Operations were immediately suspended at the tunneling site and a full coordinated investigation has been launched into the incident.”

It said that the “joint venture” was “co-operating fully with the Garda and Health and Safety Authority investigations which are underway at site”.

“The management and staff of Wayss & Freytag and BAM Civil express their sincere condolences to the family of the deceased, whose details will be released once all his next of kin have been informed,”it said.

The tunnel boring programme began last autumn, after the machine named “Fionnuala” by Shell, was delayed in delivery when a lorry carrying parts of it jack-knifed at a crossroads.

Shell E&P Ireland recently reported good progress, and said it had celebrated four million man hours and two years marked without any time off due to incident or injury. It reported that tunnelling was several weeks behind schedule because of “issues encountered while drilling the first 750m rock section”.

Local residents expressed concern about “sinkholes” which appeared periodically from last May in the estuary, but the company said that these were “small depressions” caused by some “air migration to the surface of Sruddacon bay” and did not pose any risk to public safety.

Tunnelling, using a technique known as segment lining where a series of precast concrete rings are laid, is due to be completed next year.

Posted Date: 
9 September 2013