Two men died on Saturday at a transport business at Sarina Beach Rd.
Two men died on Saturday at a transport business at Sarina Beach Rd. Campbell Gellie

'We need to find answers': Inquiry into tragic deaths begins

BROTHERS Frank and George Vella died as they were cleaning residue from a truck's tanks after unloading the day before.

That's the line of inquiry Workplace Health and Safety investigators are following as they begin to try to determine the cause of the accident that has devastated the tight-knit Sarina community south of Mackay.

According to the WHSQ investigators, the tanks had contained a 20 cubic metre load of Suplaflo, a liquid fertiliser blend with a four per cent urea mix.

The liquid stock feed supplement, which is a bio-dunder based product, is produced at Wilmar's bio-ethanol distillery at Plane Creek, Sarina.

 

Long-time Sarina residents, Frank, 52, and George Vella, 48, were found dead by police about 8.30pm on Saturday inside a transportation tank at their business, Vella Haulage Sarina.

The company, and the brothers, delivered cane by-product to farmers across the region.

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Investigators will consult with toxic fume specialists as part of the investigation.

Having taking possession of the vehicle, the investigation will centre around confined spaces and the build-up of toxic fumes, with specialists in these areas to be consulted.

"We need to find answers and give the family some closure," Office of Industrial Relations executive director Julie Nielsen said.

As part of the investigation process, all key staff, contractors, and witnesses will be interviewed, and all relevant plant and equipment examined by qualified personnel.

While it is difficult to predict times, the director said, complex investigations where a fatality has occurred could take months to complete.

Mackay Police District Inspector Ian Haughton said the incident was a tragedy for the Sarina and Mackay communities.

"This is a tragic set of circumstances for the family, we're talking about a long-term family business that is well known in the Sarina and Mackay districts," he said.

"It is very tragic indeed."

Insp Haughton said family members found the brothers at the scene and contacted emergency services.

He said it was yet to be determined if George and Frank Vella had gone into the tank together, or if one of the brothers had tried to assist the other.

"There are no words to explain how they (the Vella family) would be right now," Insp Haughton said.



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