‘Did 1970s Holiday Park Blaze Lead To Husband’s Death?’ Asks Widow

Widow’s Appeal For Information As Country Marks Workers’ Memorial Day


By Helen MacGregor

The heartbroken widow of a man who died of an asbestos-related cancer is appealing to her husband’s former colleagues to help in a battle for justice and says his death is particularly poignant as the country marks Workers’ Memorial Day.

David Fry from Ilfracombe, Devon, died in June 2011 aged 68, less than five months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lungs caused by inhaling deadly asbestos dust.

His wife Vivienne instructed asbestos experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell and is now appealing to her husband’s co-workers at a Sussex holiday park that was devastated by a large fire in the 1970s to get in touch as it is believed they may hold vital information about his exposure to asbestos.

David worked on the redevelopment of Gibsons Holiday Park in Bracklesham Bay, Chichester, which had been destroyed by a cylinder gas explosion in August 1975. The fire was tackled by 80 firefighters.

He was employed as catering manager, but his initial role was to help restore the kitchens and dining rooms in the park so he worked as a general labourer in 1976. He took orders from contractors called Stirlands, who were undertaking the demolition and clearance of the site.

Satpal Singh, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office representing Vivienne, said: “Before his death David remembered being under instructions from his employer to help Stirlands in any way possible on the redevelopment of the holiday park site.

“The fire caused extensive damage to the site and David helped with clearing and demolition work.  He encountered asbestos that had been used on the roofs and for lagging”

“Sadly the nature of asbestos exposure means the symptoms take years to develop and in almost all cases it is aggressive and fatal. David never got to see justice for being diagnosed with the terrible disease but we hope that his former Gibsons and Stirlands co-workers get in touch as they may hold vital information about the presence of asbestos at the park which will help Vivienne’s plight now.”

Once Gibsons had been redeveloped, David worked there a short time and eventually he and Vivienne decided to set up their own business.

In July 2000 the couple bought Tarka Holiday Park, and in 2006 Watermouth Cove Holiday Park in Ilfracombe. Their idea was to expand, but they were forced to sell Tarka Holiday Park in 2010 due to the deterioration of David’s health. Unknown at the time what was wrong, it all became clear in January 2011 when he was given the devastating diagnosis of Mesothelioma  Their daughter Zoe and her husband continue to run the business at Watermouth Cove now.”

Vivienne said: “David was such a hard worker and loved being employed in the leisure industry as it was all about helping people have a good time.

“When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma we were in complete shock and disbelief as we were told it was an illness associated more with the construction rather than leisure industry.

“But David could vividly recall what a dusty job the gutting of Gibsons was and it was the only time in his life he worked as a labourer. He was never warned of the dangers of asbestos or given any protective clothing by Stirlands. David described the kitchens and boiler rooms being damaged by the fire and having to clear away asbestos.

“Although it is nearly two years since his death, I still struggle to accept the fact that he has gone. We were looking forward to a long and happy retirement together but we never got the chance to enjoy that. We have two grandchildren and David is clearly missed.

“David died because of something he was exposed to at work through no fault of his own and as the country gathers to mark Workers’ Memorial Day at the weekend, I hope it helps trigger people’s memories about asbestos at Gibsons and they get in touch.”

Anyone who thinks they can help is asked to contact Satpal Singh at Irwin Mitchell on 0117 926 1524 or email Satpal.singh@irwinmitchell.com

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to mesothelioma claims