Cumbrian couple to take legal action against tour operator over fire on holiday

Compensation sought for burn injuries caused by fire on holiday in Nepal

01.05.2007

 

01/05/2007

A couple from Lazonby in Cumbria are taking legal action against their tour operator after a fire, which broke out whilst they were on holiday in Nepal in February 2007, caused burns and other injuries and nearly killed a fellow holidaymaker.

Stuart Burton, (49), and his wife, Hilary (42), were staying at the Temple Tiger Jungle Lodge, Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal, when disaster struck on the night of 7 February 2007.

Mr and Mrs Burton had booked the luxury 15-night tour of India and Nepal through Cox & Kings at a cost of £6,000.00. The last part of the trip was to include a private tour of Nepal, staying in the Temple Tiger Jungle Lodge.

However on their second night at the lodge a fire broke out in the thatched bamboo hut next to the Burtons hut. A kerosene heater which guests had been given by the local tour guides fell apart as it was being moved and the spilt paraffin ignited. The hut was occupied by an English couple who stumbled out of the hut, the female of the couple fell head first down the steps from the balcony.

On hearing the woman's screams, Mr Burton, who was out on his balcony with his wife at the time, turned around and was horrified to see that she was on fire. He immediately raced to her aid and battled to tackle the 4ft high flames with his fleece jacket and shirt.

Mr Burton successfully managed to extinguish the flames from the woman, burning his hands in the process. The woman sustained third degree burns to her right leg and a gash to her scalp which later required 6 stitches. Both Mr and Mrs Burton suffered smoke inhalation and anxiety, while Mr Burton required medical treatment for the burns to his hands.

There were no fire alarms or fire evacuation procedures in place and the electricity supply failed meaning that the entire area was plunged into darkness. This made it extremely difficult for other holidaymakers to make their way to safety and for staff to get to the scene.

Mrs Burton explained: The mahouts (elephant drivers) and camp staff battled to try and prevent the fire from spreading further but the danger was that the jungle floor, deep in dry leaves, might catch alight.

There was no first aid kit in the camp and Mr and Mrs Burton pleaded with the camp staff to take the injured woman to hospital. She and her husband were eventually taken out of the camp by jeep and they were rowed across a wide, fast-flowing river. There were no life jackets and they only had a torch to help them in the darkness.

 

Legal action against tour operator

Katie Jones, of law firm Irwin Mitchell who is representing Mr and Mrs Burton in their legal action said: This terrifying incident, which almost resulted in a fatality, could easily have been avoided if stricter health and safety measures had been put in place. Guests should not have been allowed to use open-flamed kerosene heaters in bamboo thatched huts for obvious fire safety reasons. In addition, there should have been a fire alarm and a fire evacuation procedure in place.

Tour operators have a duty to take reasonable care of their customers and to ensure that the accommodation and the services that they provide meet the required standards of health and safety. This includes appropriate inspections of the accommodation to assess its safety and the risk of accidents occurring.

Mrs Burton said: This tragic incident completely spoilt the holiday because we returned home feeling deep in shock. My husband and I will have to live with the memories of seeing the flames engulfing that poor woman forever. Clearly, there were no checks in place for our safety or well being and we all know that it was only by good fortune that no-one was killed.

 

If you or someone you know has been effected by a similar incident on holiday, our experts can help take legal action. Fill in our online claims form for free advice.