Widow Of Former Leeds Fire Fighter Appeals To Ex Colleagues After Asbestos Death

Industrial Disease Experts Instructed To Investigate Working Conditions


The widow of a former Leeds fire fighter is appealing to his former colleagues to come forward with vital information as she launches a battle for justice after he died from an asbestos-related cancer.

Robert (Bob) Gay, from Drighlington, in Bradford, was 78 when he died in December 2013 after a three month battle with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer which is caused by exposure to harmful asbestos dust and fibres decades ago.

His wife, Hazel, 75, instructed specialist industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate Bob’s former employers to see whether more could have been done to protect him from the deadly dust. Together the law firm and Hazel are appealing for his former colleagues to help with an investigation into exposure to asbestos at his former employers.

When Bob left school he became an apprentice joiner at Matthews and Sons in Wetherby between 1950 and 1953. He was responsible for general building work in residential and commercial buildings. Before his death, he recalled that during this employment he came into contact with asbestos as he would remove and replace asbestos soffits in buildings.

Bob also worked for the Leeds and West Riding Fire Service as a fire fighter from 1960 until 1970 where it is believed he came into contact with asbestos during his day-to-day activities in numerous commercial and residential buildings across the city and he also used asbestos gloves and asbestos fire blankets whilst at work.

Expert Opinion
I’m keen to speak to anyone who worked with Robert during his fire-fighting career as we believe they may hold vital evidence about the presence of asbestos and the working conditions he endured.

“Mesothelioma is an industrial disease for which sadly there is no cure. Employers have been aware of the dangers of exposing workers to asbestos dust since the 1950s and 1960s and this case highlights the devastating consequences the disease can have.

“It can take decades from exposure to asbestos for the symptoms of illness to take hold but once they do mesothelioma is an aggressive illness. Because of the time-lag it can be difficult to investigate so we hope as many people as possible come forward to help.”
Ian Toft, Associate
In June 2013 Bob went to St James Hospital in Leeds as he was suffering from severe pain in his side. He was told by doctors that he had fluid on his lungs and it needed to be drained. Bob later had further scans, x rays and a biopsy and was diagnosed with mesothelioma on 30 September 2013. The following months his health declined and was referred to Wheatfield Hospice for Palliative care to increase his medication. Bob was told by doctors that his condition was terminal and had no further treatment.

Hazel said: “It was difficult to watch Bob battle the disease and for his health to decline as it did. All he did was go to work and do his job and it’s hard to come to terms with the fact this ultimately cost him his life. 

“His health deteriorated very rapidly in his last few months, as he struggled with breathlessness, lost a lot of weight and became tired very easily. He also had to give up his beloved hobby of attending dog shows with our two Lhasa Apso dogs.

“I would urge anyone who knew or worked with Bob to come forward with any information so we can move his case forward and secure justice for him.”

Anyone who has any information about the working conditions at either Leeds and West Riding Fire Service or Matthews and Son are asked to contact Ian Toft at Irwin Mitchell on 0113 218 6453 or email ian.toft@irwinmitchell.com.