The Underground Family Tragedy Breaking Broken Hill’s Heart

Three members of the same family have died after becoming trapped in a cellar with a faulty generator.

What you need to know
  • Family in Broken Hill, NSW devastated after father, two sons killed in generator fume tragedy
  • Layne Harvey, 44, Jakeb Harvey, 23, and Kurtis Harvey, 16, all died after breathing in toxic fumes
  • Sons tried to save their father who had collapsed, before succumbing to gas themselves

Beneath a backyard shed, the underground cellar is tiny, just three metres deep, three metres wide and three metres long. The tiny manhole in the concrete slab above is only just big enough for an adult to squeeze through.

It was in this chamber that a father and his two brave sons who tried to save him died on Thursday night, in a tragedy that has shaken the outback oasis of Broken Hill.

It unfolded on a small block of land on the south-western outskirts of the Silver City, where the red dust meets residential lots.

It was late afternoon. Layne Harvey, a 44-year-old father, needed to fix a generator in the cellar beneath his family’s shed.

He climbed into the hole, as his wife Cherie helped from above. But the fumes from the generator quickly got to him, and Cherie heard him fall to the ground below her.

Risking her own safety, she lowered herself into the cellar and tried to haul her husband to safety. He was already unconscious, and making snoring sounds.

But Cherie simply couldn’t lift him, and was starting to be affected by the fumes herself, so came to the surface and called out to her sons, Jakeb, 23 and Kurtis, just 16.

As emergency services were summoned, one of the boys climbed into the cellar to help their father. He quickly passed out too.

As paramedics arrived, the other son entered the hole, desperate to save his sibling and Dad. He was the third to succumb to faulty generator’s toxic gas.

Kurtis and Jakeb Harvey desperately tried to save their father, before succumbing to toxic fumes themselves. (Image: Facebook)

Emergency crews faced an agonising problem. How could they help the father and sons without being overcome themselves?

Eventually, they managed to access the cellar, and one-by-one carried the unconscious trio to the surface. Jakeb first, then Kurtis, and finally their father Layne.

Paramedics and police performed CPR but none responded to treatment at the scene or in the ambulance.

Cherie, and her daughter Amber were informed at the hospital that all three had died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

As well as being a son, Jakeb was also a proud father to a two-year-old girl.

In one of many doting Facebook posts he wrote to her: “I can’t wait for the day I take you for drives in the cruiser, laugh with you, cuddle you, watch movies and play... Dad loves you, always has and always will.”

Jakeb Harvey and his two-year-old daughter. (Image: Facebook)

It’s clear he was also immensely close to his family, showing off a tattoo on his arm, featuring an angel watching over his father, mother, sister and brother.

In another photo, he swells with pride, posing next to his brother Kurtis.

“Even the biggest boulder cannot knock down two brothers standing shoulder to shoulder”, he wrote.

Kurtis and Jakeb Harvey were incredibly close to their family.  (Image: Facebook)

He used the hashtags #brother #family and #unbreakable

The inland mining city of 17,000 or so is renowned for its tough locals and resilient spirit.

It is a spirit that will surely be tested in coming days, as it plans three funerals, and rallies around what’s left of a family, that was torn apart simply trying to help one another.