Asbestos Victim In Search For Ex-Colleagues Following Devastating Diagnosis

Engineer Seeks Help In Battle For Justice

25.08.2011

A retired Devon engineer, whose life has been ‘turned upside down’ by a devastating diagnosis of an aggressive asbestos related cancer, has appealed to former colleagues to help him in his legal battle to gain justice.

Frederick Vincent (76) from Torquay in Devon received the heartbreaking news that he had contracted the fatal condition mesothelioma earlier this year, on the same day he and his wife, Jean celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

He believes the cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos throughout his working life working in the telecommunications industry. The grandfather of 5 has now instructed Helen Grady, an industrial illness specialist at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, to help with his battle for answers.

Mr Vincent said: “I started off as a Telegram Boy for the Post Office in Torquay when I was 15. I worked from 1950 to 1953 and regularly came into contact with asbestos.

“I was responsible for conducting the monthly fire drills and as part of this had to shake out the asbestos blanket. I had a motorcycle too which I used to deliver the telegrams. I remember it had asbestos brake pads and I often blew the white asbestos fibres from the back wheel.”

Between 1959 and 1962 Mr Vincent was exposed to more asbestos whilst working for a major employer in Paignton, Standard Telephones and Cables.  It is understood there was a great deal of asbestos in this factory, particularly in the sub floor area where all of the old pipe work was lagged with asbestos which was crumbling and in poor condition.  He would have brushed past the extensive lagged pipework and inhaled airborne fibres.  Solicitors instructed for Standard Telephone & Cables have recently denied liability.

Mr Vincent later worked for BT as an installation engineer. He gave 30 years loyal service, working for the telecoms company from 1962 until his retirement in 1989.He again came across asbestos during the course of his work. He spent a lot of his time in the telephone exchanges in Devon and it is understood a great deal of asbestos was used in these exchanges for fire insulation purposes. 

Now, he and his family, including daughters Alison (47), Gesine (37) as well as five grandchildren, are all trying to come to terms with the shocking news that he has an aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Mr Vincent said: “I was told about my diagnosis on my 50th wedding anniversary and my wife, Jean and I were devastated. I used to come home from work with dust on my overalls and in my hair but I had no idea how serious this would end up being. 

“My symptoms first appeared around November 2010 when I started to suffer from breathlessness. An x ray revealed that I had a build up of fluid on my lung.

“I worked hard all my life and have been retired since 1988 when I suffered a cardiac arrest.  Since then I have not had any heart symptoms and this condition was controlled with medication.  To be told that this heart condition only adversely affected my life expectancy by 3 years has been a double blow.  I have also received a clean bill of health and remission for cancer of the bladder diagnosed in 2007.  

“I am trying to enjoy some quality time with my family, but I’m very aware this will now be cut short.  I have not had any chemotherapy as this is not a cure and I am worried about the side effects.  My last scan showed the tumour was growing and so my consultant told me to go away and enjoy what I can of the summer.

“I do hope that what happened to me serves as a warning to other workers and, in particular employers; that health and safety regulations are there for a reason and should never be ignored.”

Helen Grady, from the Bristol office of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who is representing Mr Vincent in his legal battle for justice explained: “Even in the 1960s and 70s employers knew of the risks associated with asbestos and the dangers of inhaling lethal fibres.
“Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Although it can take upwards of 20 years from exposure to onset of the illness, once diagnosed it can be very aggressive and painful.

“In order to help Mr Vincent conclude his fight for justice, I am particularly keen to hear from workers from the Standard Telephones and Cables in Paignton from 1959 to 1962 and BT installation workers in the Devon area from 1962 to 1989 as they may have key information about the presence of asbestos and working practices at these premises.”

Anyone who can help with any information is asked to contact Helen Grady at Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or email helen.grady@irwinmitchell.com