Thomas Cook Workers Face Trial

Gas Boiler Leak

17.03.2008

Two Thomas Cook employees are facing trial in Corfu over the deaths of two British children whilst on holiday at the Corcyra Beach Hotel in Corfu with their father and his girlfriend who both survived.

Christi Shepherd (seven) and brother Bobby (six) from Horbury, West Yorkshire, were holidaying in a bungalow at the Corfu hotel in 2006.

Fumes from a gas boiler are reported to have seeped into the accommodation through holes drilled for an air conditioning unit which reports claim were not sealed properly, poisoning the children.

Harry Rogers, a heating engineer hired by the children's mother, alleges that the boiler had major faults.

These include the claim that a thermostat had been rewired so that it did not shut down when it detected hot gases and there was a lack of a vital flue.

Thomas Cook has said that the boiler, which was in a room next to the bungalow, complied with guidelines issued by the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO). These state that gas appliances used in living accommodation have to be serviced annually and checked by a UK gas safety engineer.

However, the FTO told the BBC's Panorama in April 2007 as part of its investigation that as the gas boiler was not technically inside the accommodation it did not have to be checked.

In its report on the tragedy, Panorama also discovered that a safety audit on the bungalow was done by a 25-year-old rep who filled in a tick box questionnaire.

Clive Garner, a Partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell specialises in travel litigation. He said: "we have had instances in the past where employees of tour operators complete safety audits and report hotels to be safe, only for us to then find that a completely different view is taken by health and safety experts who we have instructed after holidaymakers have suffered illness or injury.

"I believe there are real issues about the training of some holiday reps, their experience and the rigor with which they undertake safety assessments."

"At the same time these employees are often given a lot of responsibility and I have concerns about whether it is right that important issues relating to safety in hotels should be delegated by Tour Operators to junior and sometimes inexperienced staff."