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Three Family Members Dead In Well Tragedy

A mother has lost her husband, her pregnant daughter and her son-in-law after a tragic accident where one of them fell into a well and the other two died while trying to carry out a failed rescue.

Josef Honeder, 54, was the first to be caught out after heading out to go mushroom picking and failing to return home to his family in the Austrian village of Schoenbach in the Waldviertel region in Lower Austria.

His wife Angela, 51, worried when he did not return home for lunch set out to look for him – and discovered the abandoned basket of mushrooms scattered on the ground alongside the newly completed well that was being built on the family's property.

Unable to reach him alone, she had rushed back home and called for help from her pregnant 26-year-old daughter Barbara Gratzl and 32-year-old son-in-law Guenther. The couple had only been married two years and she was six months pregnant with their first child.

And while Angela called for emergency services and waited for them to turn up so she could take them to the well, her daughter and son-in-law were at the well. What appears to have happened is that her son-in-law tried to bring the older man up to the surface, but was overcome by carbon monoxide which firemen found was present in the shaft at an extremely high concentration.

When he passed out, his pregnant wife then tried to rescue him and was also overcome. She was still conscious when firemen arrived, but died in the ambulance on the way to hospital from the effects of the carbon monoxide poisoning.

Angela Honeder, who has been left with one other surviving daughter, has been left inconsolable by the tragic accident that also devastated the local community where all three were active members of village life.

A post mortem is being carried out but fire service spokesman Franz Resperger said it was clear that the gas was to blame, adding: "There was a very high concentration of carbon monoxide in the well from fermented gases that had formed from grass and greenery which had fallen into the shaft. The firemen needed breathing equipment to rescue the family otherwise they would have also been overcome.

The mayor of the town Ewald Froeschl said: "With one hit, nearly everyone this woman loved was lost. It is hard to express in words. It was a newly built well shaft. Josef had apparently gone to check on some of the work and been overcome by the fumes. The attempt to rescue him was a fatal mistake by his son-in-law and daughter.

"Our thoughts are with the family and we will do everything we can to help," he added.

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