George Vella, 48, died on Saturday in a workplace incident at Vellas Haulage Sarina
George Vella, 48, died on Saturday in a workplace incident at Vellas Haulage Sarina Facebook

Brothers killed in unthinkable workplace incident

TWO brothers who died over the weekend in a tragic workplace incident inside a molasses tank have been described as "top blokes''.

Long-time Sarina locals, Frank Vella, 52, and George Vella, 48, were found dead by police about 8.30pm on Saturday inside a transportation tank at Vella Haulage Sarina business, south of Mackay.

It is believed the tank had been used to carry molasses and a fertiliser called 'dunder' from Wilmar Sugar.

A Queensland Police media spokesperson said initial investigations suggested the men had been affected by fumes.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland - who are now investigating - would not comment on possible lines of inquiry, but a spokesman said emergency services had been contacted after water was seen coming from the tank.

Greg Keating, who lives down the road from the Vella property said he was also a member of the "dunder gang''.

"I know the fumes and that they are bad but not this bad. I don't know how this had happened," he said.

But exactly what happened is the question on everyone's lips in the Mackay region as the community struggles to come to grips with the death of two well-known and respected members of the community.

The Daily Mercury spoke with more than a half dozen people who knew the brothers well and all of them said they just still couldn't believe it.

George's old boss and good friend Angelo Sorbello - who runs Mackay Haulage - said he was one of the best drivers and managers he had.

"George was also the best fellow I know," he said.

"George came to us a young man and worked for us for many years until he bought his own trucks and started Vella Haulage.

"I still can't believe it. I saw him just last Thursday."


He was known as a good community man, just last week George posted a photo to Facebook of his truck laden with hay bales heading for farmers struggling in the drought.

"Giving some relief to the drought Farmers with Aussie Helpers," he wrote.

He also lent his trucks for the Sarina Relay For Life to be used as a stage.

Frank was a grower, bachelor and a man who loved his trucks according to friend Kevin Keating, Greg's uncle.


Shocked to hear of the passing on of fellow Pro Bike racer George Vella. This photo only a week ago racing at Willowbank. Our best wishes to the family.
Scott White posted this photo of George Vella from "only a week ago racing at Willowbank”. Scott White - Pro Stock Motorcyc

The two men had gone on "boys trips" over the past few years with another friend of theirs.

"Frank was a top bloke," Mr Keating said.

"Last year we went down to the Mundine and Danny Green fight in Adelaide, we have been to State of Origin and V8 Super Cars."

The routine catchup would be on Friday nights at the Sarina Hotel for the draw which would jackpot at $10,000.

Mr Keating said he got a call from Frank to go last Friday but didn't because family were in town. He wished he had gone now.

"We always said we needed to do our trips more often because you don't live forever," he said.

"It's just hard to realise that this had happened."

RSL Sarina Branch president Ron Gurnett knew the whole family, "everyone did".

"Frank was a quiet bloke but had a funny sense of humour. He would come out with some hilarious stuff sometimes," he said.

"George would do anything for the community. They're very nice people that would give you the shirt off their back without questioning it."

Fatal workplace incident Sarina:
Fatal workplace incident Sarina:

Mackay councillor based in Sarina, Martin Bella, said it wasn't just a hit for the family but also for those that work for the company.

"They are local employers as well so this will affect the whole community," he said.

Wilmar Sugar were notified on Sunday morning. The company confirmed Wilmar AgServices was one of Vella Transport's customers but didn't want to comment further on what may have happened Saturday.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of the two men during this very sad time," a Wilmar spokeswoman said.