Two men drowned in East Yorkshire farm slurry pit

Newlands Farm in Sunk Island
Image caption Two workers died at the farm in East Yorkshire on 14 December 2015

Two men died after entering a farm's slurry tank to remove a blockage, an inquest has heard.

Alexander Forman, 32, and Richard Pooley, 36, were working on Newlands Farm, East Yorkshire, in December 2015.

A pathologist told Hull Coroner's Court that the men drowned in the pig manure, but would have been unconscious due to the toxic fumes from the waste.

Dr Richard Shepherd said the pair would have been overcome almost immediately as they climbed down a ladder.

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Image copyright Family issue
Image caption Alexander Forman and Richard Pooley (pictured) would have been unconscious due to the toxic fumes from the waste, a pathologist said

Another farm worker, Paul Loftus, said that earlier during the day he had entered the pit to try to clear the blockage with a hook in just his overalls and his Wellington boots.

Mr Loftus claimed he had never been told about the dangers of slurry tanks.

Slurry pit safety

Slurry is a mixture of manure and water and is used by farmers as a fertiliser for their crops.

Gases including methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide are produced by bacteria during the decomposition of slurry.

Some of the gases are poisonous as well as being flammable.

Slurry gas is heavier than air and during mixing will settle in a cloud over the top of the slurry. Bending down into the gas cloud for even a moment can cause unconsciousness.

After only a few breaths, the affected party could collapse and die as the gas rapidly displaces air from the lungs and affects the nervous system.

Source: Health and Safety Executive

Mr Forman ran the farm on Sunk Island alongside his father and mother.

His father, Robert Forman, said the farm complied with all safety standards and that there was a standing instruction that no employee should go into the slurry tank.

"Alexander was the most important person in my life. I built the business for him and the prospect of life without him is too hard to bear," said Mr Forman.

The inquest continues.

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