THREE family members aged between 16 and 44 have died after being found unconscious in a shed out the back of their home in Broken Hill, New South Wales.
Emergency services were called to the property on Creedon Street, in the northwest NSW mining town, about 4.30pm Thursday. The call-out came after a Cheryl Harvey reported that three people — husband Layne Harvey, 44, and their two sons Jakeb, 23 and Kurtis, 16 — were unconscious in a cellar beneath the rear work shed.
On arrival, police and paramedics located the unresponsive trio, believed to have been overcome by gas caused by a generator that malfunctioned in the closed shed.
Cheryl reportedly found Layne in trouble so called Kurtis and Jakeb who arrived minutes later to help.
Neighbour Margaret Graham told The Daily Telegraph that Cheryl “said her husband was down in the cellar trying to fix a generator”.
“She went down to see what was going on, found him unconscious and she had to come up herself because the fumes were too strong,” Ms Graham said.
“Then her sons came on the scene and the boys went down to help their dad and they got trapped too.”
The crews used breathing apparatuses to enter the shed and retrieved the three men, despite “difficult access”, just before 5pm.
NSW Ambulance Inspector Lisa Darley said paramedics “found a very distressed wife” when they arrived on the scene.
“We could see that there were three patients inside before we were overwhelmed by the fumes … and we had to wait for the NSW Fire & Rescue to come with their specialised equipment,” she said.
A NSW Ambulance spokesman who described the tragedy as “a hazardous material incident” said all three men went into cardiac arrest.
“All three were taken to Broken Hill Hospital but sadly passed away,” police said in a statement.
A NSW Police spokeswoman earlier told news.com.au the deaths were not suspicious, no one was being sought in relation to the matter, and “it was not suicide”.
Officers from Barrier Police District have established a crime scene at the premises but have not yet been able to “gain access safely to conduct a full investigation”.
Police inquiries are continuing and a report will be prepared for the coroner.
A similar situation occurred on a farm in the NSW Southern Tablelands in February 2017 when a husband, wife and their neighbour — all in their 60s — died in an empty water tank.
The man collapsed while working in the empty in-ground cement water tank on the property just out of Gunning, with his wife and another man going to help before they also collapsed inside the tank.
“Unfortunately, you see this all too often where the people rescuing go down and also has a tragic outcome,” Insp Darley said.
“If you do smell gas, it is best. to wait for rescue personnel who are specialists in this area to perform that task.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family to help support the surviving members “as they move forward”.
— With AAP