Northern Ireland

Two builders die in Australia construction accident

Emergency services at scene of Perth accident Image copyright ABC News/Laura Gartry
Image caption Police were called to attend a report that two people were trapped under a large piece of concrete

Two construction workers from Northern Ireland have been killed in an accident in Australia.

The victims have been named as Joseph McDermott of Omagh, County Tyrone, and Gerard Bradley from near Macosquin, County Londonderry, both in their 20s.

Reports suggest they were working on an apartment block in Perth when a concrete slab fell from a crane.

Western Australia Police responded to a report that two men were "trapped under a large piece of concrete".

'Tragic'

An Omagh councillor who knew Mr McDermott personally said there was a "palpable sense of grief" in his home town where he was a well-known figure.

"He hasn't been in Australia for long - it was only a month ago when he left," said Sinn Féin councillor Sorcha McAnespy.

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Media captionSorcha McAnespy said Joseph McDermott's home town of Omagh is trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

"Whatever help we as a community can do, we will - that's what we do best."

Matt Mathers, also a friend of Mr McDermott, told BBC Radio Ulster he had known him since they were children.

"I know it's kind of a standard thing to say when someone passes away that they were loved by everyone, but I think on this occasion it really rings true," he said.

"He was such a happy-go-lucky sort of character, and growing up Joe would always have been the kind of reserved one, kind of home bird.

"For this to happen, it's tragic really for him to take that big step and move out to Australia and make a life for himself out there and for it be cut short in tragic circumstances, it's difficult to take."

Declan Kelly, landlord of the Portstewart Arms pub where Mr Bradley used to work, paid tribute to his friend.

"Everybody's devastated, you know, just terrible news," he said.

"My phone hasn't stopped all day. Great guy, very popular, nobody in the town would have said a bad word about Brads as everybody knew him. Life and soul of the party when you were out, a gentleman."

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Media captionDeclan Kelly said Gerard Bradley was "a great guy, very popular".

Mr Bradley was a member of Portstewart Golf Club and manager Michael Moss described him as "a really nice kid".

"He was a very, very good golfer. He joined here in the year 2000 - he was 14 and he got a 14 handicap," he said.

"He was very popular. Very good at his work and very popular with the members. A really bubbly kid, a really nice kid. It's just a tragedy."

Western Australia Police said officers were called at 11:35 local time (03:35 GMT) on Wednesday to attend a report that "two people were trapped under a large piece of concrete".

The building site has been closed while a health and safety investigation is carried out into the circumstances of the incident.

'Large crash'

ABC News journalist Laura Gartry, who reported from the scene, told the BBC: "From what we can understand from talking to witnesses and what the police have said, a large concrete slab of about 10 by 15 metres was being lifted by a crane off a delivery truck.

"It hadn't got very far off the ground when it fell on two construction workers.

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Media captionAn eyewitness to the accident told ABC News journalist Laura Gartry that he heard a large smash before rushing to the scene to help

"A witness I spoke to who lives nearby had heard a large crash and came running out to find the two men under the slab - he then helped other workers to try to get the slab up, using wooden planks, but we understand that both men had died by the time police arrived.

"The construction union here has been very vocal and want to do their own independent inquiry into how such a tragic accident could happen."

Image copyright ABC News/Laura Gartry
Image caption Construction firm Jaxon said colleagues of the dead men were offered counselling after the accident

Construction firm Jaxon said in a statement: "Our workforce is grieving and our focus is on supporting the families and those affected."

A spokesperson said: "The accident is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the relevant authorities, and it would be premature to speculate or pre-empt the findings of the investigation."

A spokesperson for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it was "aware of the case and stands ready to provide consular assistance".

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