A sad fatality occurred at German Gully, near Ngahere, yesterday, when a young man, Richard John O’Connell, 28 years of age, an employee of the Brian Boru Gold Dredging Company Limited, was killed almost instantaneously by a fall of gravel whilst working in a shaft. The scene of the accident is almost half a mile from the present site of the Brian Boru dredge, where a couple of shafts have been sunk, one close to the other, for the purpose of increasing the water supply of the dredge. The one in which O’Connell was working had a depth of about thirty feet, and the deceased had as his mate Edward Mulcare, who was working the windlass at the top of the shaft. The fall of material came with very little warning at about one o’clock. Mulcare, at the first sign of movement of the debris, called to his mate: ‟Look out, Dick!” O’Connell, however, had no time to retreat through a drive that extended to the other shaft, and he was instantly buried, there being four feet of gravel over him. The fact of a couple of earth tremors being reported in town yesterday led to a rumour that these might have had some effect on the gravel, but it was ascertained last night that the fall was not due to any such cause, no tremours having been experienced at the locality. The effect of the fall of gravel would be to cause almost instant suffocation.
The work of extricating the body took some considerable time, a large quantity of gravel having to be hauled to the surface. Operations were directed by Mr. Geo. Miller, of Runanga, a shareholder in the company, who happened to be near at hand when the accident happened. The body was recovered at about 6 o’clock last evening. Another employee of the Company, Thomas Burley, was down the shaft just prior to the fall, securing measurements for the pipes to pump out water.
A single man, and a native of Queenstown, Otago, the late Mr. O’Connell was a popular figure, not only with his work mates, but all who came in contact with him. He formerly had pursued the profession of school teaching, having been an old boy of the Christian Brothers’ School at Dunedin, where he matriculated at the age of fourteen years. Indifferent heath obliged him to relinquish teaching and take up outdoor work. He had for twelve months past been employed by the Brian Boru Dredging Company. His father, Mr. John Edward O’Connell, resides at Queenstown, and he also survived by four sisters and one brother, while Mrs. L. F. Casey, of Greymouth, is an aunt of deceased. General sympathy will be felt for the relatives in the sudden bereavement.
An inquest will be held at Greymouth, opening probably this morning. It is also probable the funeral will be held at Greymouth.