Widow Of Former Dockyard Worker Desperately Seeking Justice After Asbestos-Related Death

Specialist Asbestos Lawyers Help Family With Investigation


The heartbroken widow of a former dockyard worker who died from an asbestos-related cancer is appealing to his former colleagues to come forward with information about the working conditions he faced to help with an investigation into his exposure to the deadly dust.

Kenneth Strong (known as Ken), from Newton Abbot, in Devon, died aged 80 from mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lungs, following a five-month battle with the disease, which is caused by exposure to the deadly dust found in asbestos.

His wife of 56 years, Jean, age 76, instructed expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell in her battle for answers as to whether her husband was allowed to work in conditions without appropriate protection from the deadly asbestos dust which caused the disease.

Ken was 15 when he started an apprenticeship as a ships fitter at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth from 1948 to 1959. Before his death, Ken recalled working on various large ships including HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal where he would walk through the boiler rooms to access different parts of the ship which had pipework lagged with asbestos that were often very dusty with the crumbling lagging. He also recalled that he had not been given any protective clothing or information about the dangers of asbestos during his eleven years at the yard.

Ken left the profession to take a teacher training course when in 1960 and worked at several schools across Devon, eventually ending his teaching career as well respected Head Teacher.

Expert Opinion
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer which causes so much distress to victims like Ken who worked in industries such as shipping docks - a trade where we know workers regularly came into contact with asbestos but were not given the appropriate protection.

“We hope his former colleagues will be able to confirm Ken’s recollection of how he may have come into contact with asbestos and whether more could potentially have been done by his employers to protect him from the deadly dust.

“The dangers and risks of exposure to asbestos dust were identified as early as 1948, when Ken was exposed to asbestos, yet all too often we see workers and their families who have been left devastated decades later because their relatives were not warned of the dangers or given the appropriate protection.”
Phoebe Osborne, Solicitor
On 31 August last year Ken began to feel unwell and collapsed at home. Jean took him to Torbay hospital and doctors drained six litres of fluid from his lungs. Medical staff advised Ken that he had suspected mesothelioma, but he was too weak to have a lung biopsy and also to have any chemotherapy. In the next couple of months, Ken lost three stone in weight and his health rapidly declined. He spent his last few days at the Rowcroft Hospice in Torquay where he passed away.

At an inquest at the Plymouth Coroners Court on 21st May 2014, by the Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon Coroner, Mr Ian Arrow recorded Ken died from malignant mesothelioma, an “Industrial Disease” as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Jean said: “It was very difficult to watch Ken become ill as he was always very active and strong. It is an awful illness and one that affected Ken at such a rapid rate and to think that his illness stemmed from exposure to asbestos decades ago is hard to come to terms with.

“Ken and I loved to travel and explore new places around the world; we had only recently visited Delhi in India. We had planned to have a Baltic cruise in October this year but sadly I’ve had to cancel this trip.

“I hope with the help of Ken’s former colleagues and Irwin Mitchell we will be able to find some answers and secure justice for Ken.”

Anyone who has any information about the working conditions at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth between 1948 and 1959 is asked to contact Phoebe Osborne at Irwin Mitchell on 0117 926 1549 or email phoebe.osborne@irwinmitchell.com.