A fuel delivery driver was killed in a freak accident after falling into an underground diesel tank at Tuite’s Garage on Cavan Road, Oldcastle, Co Meath two years ago, an inquest has heard.

According to the Irish Mirror, Robbie Slye, aged 64, died from injuries sustained during the incident on April 6, 2021.

Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard that Slye, who worked for Capital Oil, was opening a manhole to access an underground diesel tank when he slumped headfirst into the chamber.

Although he was quickly rescued from the tank and taken by air ambulance to Tallaght University Hospital, he was pronounced dead later that night.

The owner of the garage, John Tuite, said he became aware of the accident when he noticed Slye’s legs sticking out of a manhole on the forecourt. Tuite called for help and with the assistance of other workers, they managed to pull the delivery driver out of the hole.

The inquest heard that CCTV footage showed that Slye had been in the hole for 40 seconds before he was spotted and he was pulled out within a minute of falling in.

Tuite told the court he had never experienced such an event in a lifetime of operating the service station. He said the underground diesel tank was in use all the time with deliveries being made every seven-to-10 days.

He said Slye, who regularly delivered fuel to his garage, had already spent half an hour filling other tanks on the day without incident.

According to the Irish Mirror, the inquest heard the chamber was about three feet deep with around one foot filled with water with a film of diesel on top.

An inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said the underground tank was of standard construction and design dating from 1937. He said Slye had previously carried out 11 deliveries to Tuite’s garage in the preceding 12 months.

The HSA inspector said having water in the chamber accessing the diesel tank was almost impossible to avoid given the Irish weather and the prevalence of rainwater and run-off, even with newer, more modern tanks.

He added that he had never come across a similar incident in over 20 years working with the HSA.

Slye’s family were concerned about the volume of diesel that might have been present in the chamber, but the HSA inspector said he believed there would only be a small amount of fuel. The inspector said he believed it was unlikely that the victim would have been overcome by diesel fumes.

The inquest heard that the HSA concluded no prosecution was warranted as there had been no breach of any health and safety regulations.

Post-mortem results showed Slye died from multi-organ failure which was most likely due to exposure to diesel.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

A recommendation by the jury was for the installation of a safety grid to the access chamber of underground fuel tanks where possible, which could be removed for cleaning, access and maintenance and which could be relocked into position on completion of such work.