THE man killed in an ink vat in Sydney's west yesterday was trapped by a mixing blade that suddenly started working.
The man, aged in his 40s, was inside the vat cleaning it when the blade swung into him about 8.45am. A co-worker, 29, was also injured.
A third man, 28, was injured when he leapt into the vat and tried to save the pair. He and the 29-year-old were freed after about two hours and taken to Westmead Hospital with multiple leg fractures, while a major rescue involving police, ambulance and NSW Fire and Rescue crews was under way to free the other man.
Rescuers had to enter the eight-metre vat through a manhole. They were initially able to speak to the trapped man, who was conscious, but he died shortly before midday.
Police will investigate on behalf of the coroner and SafeWork NSW will try and determine how the mixing blade started working or moved while the men were inside.
There was still ink in the vat at the DIC Australia factory when the man and two colleagues climbed inside to clean it - and that made the rescue attempt even more difficult, NSW Ambulance Superintendent Paul Turner said.
Mr Turner said the rescue operation had been complex.
"The third patient unfortunately died on scene, this is a terrible tragedy.
"We had 10 ambulance resources on scene, along with NSW Police and Fire & Rescue ... We did absolutely everything we could."
Some of the rescuers were experts in working in confined spaces, he said.
The conditions in the tank were "hot", he said.
"It's a tragic set of circumstances so close to Christmas".
It took several hours for the body of the victim to be removed.
One of the injured remains in hospital in stable condition.