Lawyers for victims of Van Gogh cruise ship illness incredulous by unreported death of victim from norovirus

Van Gogh cruise ship illness inquest


Lawyers representing 25 victims of the virus which hit the Dutch owned Van Gogh cruise ship have reacted with incredulity following an inquest's finding that the doctor aboard the ship did not report the death of one of the passengers, in June this year, to the environmental health officer on its return to Harwich, Essex.

A 78 year old retired primary school teacher, Mrs Pat Horn, from Cheltenham died the day after developing symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea, on board the Van Gogh cruise ship.

The ship had seen a number of outbreaks of the Norovirus on board the Van Gogh throughout May and June 2006. During the cruise taken by Mrs Horn the ship was detained by the Maritime and coastguard agency on the advice of the director of public health. While health inspectors boarded the ship, the death of Mrs Horn was not reported to the officials carrying out the inspection of the ship.

Lawyer representing Van Gogh cruise ship victims

Suki Chhokar, a Partner with law firm Irwin Mitchell who are representing other people who went on the ship, both at the same time as Mrs Horn and also on further cruises in June, said "I simply cannot believe that a ship's doctor could fail to inform a health & safety inspector, given that the Van Gogh cruise ship was returning to port due to illness, and that the same doctor had treated the deceased as she became ill on board.

"We are currently conducting a civil case on behalf of our clients against the cruise operator Travelscope, and the information given at the inquest this week certainly gives reason for further serious concerns about health and safety procedures on board the ship".

Mr Chhokar continued, "The reason that viruses like the Norovirus are able to thrive on board these cruise ships is the confined environment in which such a contagious bug can spread easily. However these increased risks can and must be met with increased safeguards to prevent people becoming seriously ill."

Mr Chhokar is calling for slower turn around times whilst in port to allow for the boats to be thoroughly cleaned before taking on new passengers and more routine cleaning during the voyage.

Basic food and water hygiene levels must be in place and regular cleaning of key areas such as the toilets and kitchens is essential. Once an outbreak has been identified health advice must be given to all existing passengers and any potential passengers joining the boat must be warned before they embark. After an outbreak the boat must be deeply cleansed and sanitised before any further passengers board.

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