Wife and partner of men who died in sewer incident secure settlements of €175,000

Brothers perished after being overcome by toxic gas in Portmarnock sewer, court heard

The wife and partner of two brothers who died in a tragic sewer incident in Co Dublin have secured settlements totalling €175,000 of their High Court actions.

Stephen Harris (34) and his brother Alan Harris (45) died as a result of being overcome by toxic gas while working in a sewer at Drumnigh Wood estate in Portmarnock, Co Dublin, in June 2015.

Tracey Harris, wife of Alan, and Yvonne McGrath, Stephen's partner, later took separate proceedings arising from the deaths.

The case by Ms Harris, a bookkeeper, of Hazelbury Park, Clonee, Dublin was against Benchmark Property Consultants Ltd and Drumnigh Wood Management Company Ltd.


Ms McGrath's case was against those two defendants and also against Harris Drain Tech Ltd, a company owned by Stephen Harris.

This week, Mr Justice Garrett Simons, who described the deaths as tragic, ruled a €75,000 settlement offer in Ms Harris' case and a €100,000 settlement offer in Ms McGrath's case.

The €75,000 settlement in Ms Harris’s case will go to Ms Harris and two children, other family members having waived their entitlements. It is comprised of €40,000 for nervous shock and personal injury, plus the €35,000 solatium, the statutory maximum payment under section 48 of the Civil Liability Act for dependants in a case of wrongful death.

The €100,000 settlement in Ms McGrath’s case, which will go to her and the couple’s 11-year-old son, comprises €65,000 for nervous shock and personal injury and the €35,000 solatium.

Both women said in affidavits they had been advised there was a real risk their cases would fail in their entirety if they went to trial because of a real risk in establishing negligence.

In her action, Ms Harris said her husband died while working in the underground sewage pumping station at Druimnigh Woods, Portmarnock, on June 10th 2015, a property owned and managed by the defendants.

While underground, her husband was overcome by toxic gas, was unable to breathe and died, she said.

There had been ongoing blockages at the sewerage works and her husband had attended there on numerous occasions and entered a chamber for the purpose of carrying out drainage works.

Tragically, on the day of the incident, he had entered into the plumbing chamber in order to clean it, was overcome by toxic gases, was unable to escape the chamber and suffered an untimely death, she said.

She was advised liability is very much in dispute in the proceedings, she added. She was advised, following analysis of various reports including an inquest, a safety and health review and engineer’s report, her husband died as a result of hydrogen sulphide inhalation in a foul sewer plumbing chamber and his brother Stephen also perished.

In her action, Ms McGrath, a creche assistant of Woodhavens, Clondalkin, Dublin, said her partner, Stephen Harris was, at the time of his death, an employee of Harris Drain Tech Ltd, which is no longer in existence.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times