Page last updated at 19:35 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 20:35 UK

Sea loch barge accident kills two

Scene of accident on Loch Creran
The barge was moored on Loch Creran when the accident happened

Two men have died and a third has been airlifted to hospital after an accident on a fish farming barge in Argyll.

It was believed they fell unconscious while inspecting hydraulic pipes on the vessel moored on Loch Creran, a sea loch near Oban.

Clyde Coastguard said it was possible that rusting metal in a confined space had removed oxygen from the air.

The man who survived was said to be in a stable condition. The Health and Safety Executive has been notified.

Coastguard rescue teams and other emergency services were called to Loch Creran at about 1150 BST after reports that three men were unconscious.

A Royal Navy helicopter from Prestwick was also sent and the injured worker was flown to Lorn and Isles Hospital in Oban.

It was initially thought the men had died after being overcome by noxious fumes but coastguards said it was now believed they suffocated while inspecting hydraulic pipes.

This is an absolute tragedy. My thoughts go out to the families of those involved
Cllr Duncan MacIntyre
Argyll and Bute Council

A Clyde Coastguard spokesman said: "There was a problem with the crane on the barge and the men went to look at some hydraulic pipes in a hold.

"They vented it for about 15 minutes, but when the first man went down he became unconscious almost immediately.

"An engineer then went down but could feel himself starting to lapse out of consciousness and came back up."

It is understood the third man then went to investigate wearing some sort of respiratory mask and he too became unconscious.

The spokesman added: "Because the barge is made of metal and steel it rusts, and that depletes oxygen levels."

Location of Loch Creran

A spokeswoman for Scottish Sea Farms, which owns the barge, said: "It is with great sadness that SSF can confirm an accident at our farm in Loch Creran, Argyll, has resulted in two fatalities and injury to a third colleague.

"Our immediate concern and condolences are for the families affected by this tragic accident.

"SSF are co-operating fully with the Health and Safety Executive and relevant authorities in this matter."

The Norwegian-owned salmon farming operation has around 300 employees and 44 sites across Scotland.

Argyll councillor Duncan MacIntyre said: "This is an absolute tragedy. My thoughts go out to the families of those involved."

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said they had been made aware of the incident.

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