Community in shock as young fruit packer dies

Ashley Clarke
Ashley Clarke
A refugee in South Sudan

A country ravaged by years of bitter civil war and conflict

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FRIENDS and neighbours have spoken of their shock at the death of a young farm worker in a double tragedy.

Ashley Clarke, from Emsworth, died on Monday along with his colleague Scott Cain. It is believed they were overcome by fumes at the estate where they worked.

The men were discovered at 3.15pm in a storeroom used to cool apples. The alarm was raised when they failed to return to duties and they were discovered unconscious.

Attempts to revive them by colleagues and paramedics were unsuccessful.

Mr Clarke, 24, was one of three brothers who lived with parents Ian and Sharon in Markway Close.

A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘We are all completely shocked. It’s such a tragedy.

‘They really are lovely, a super family. They are very well-respected and well thought of.

‘This is a very caring and supportive close and we know we can call on each other. A neighbour came round to break the news to everyone on Monday evening.

‘We have all sent condolence cards to the family. His mother Sharon is a very caring woman.’

Sophie Bennett is an old school friend of Mr Clarke’s.

She delivered a sympathy card to the family yesterday and said: ‘Ashley was such a genuinely nice guy.

‘It’s a tragedy that this has happened.

‘He could not have come from a nicer family. ’

Mr Clarke died at the Blackmoor Estate in Blackmoor, near Liss, Hampshire, which is owned by Lord Selborne.

A spokeswoman for North Hampshire Coroner Andrew Bradley said that the store room used nitrogen to cool the fruit but a cause of death was not yet known.

Post-mortems proved inconclusive and police are awaiting results of toxicology tests.

William Wolmer, Lord Selborne’s son and managing director of the estate, said in a statement: ‘This is absolutely devastating news for our tight-knit community and our thoughts are with their loved ones.

‘The cause of this tragic incident is being investigated and Blackmoor Estate is co-operating fully with the authorities.’

Hampshire police and the Health and Safety Executive have launched a joint investigation into the deaths.

Detective Chief Inspector Dick Pearson said the deaths were being treated as unexplained.