Two Yorkshire Inquests In A Day Highlight The Dangers Of Asbestos

Specialist Industrial Disease Lawyers Instructed By The Families


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463

Specialist industrial disease lawyers have called for more to be done to highlight the devastating effect of exposure to asbestos after representing the families of two mesothelioma victims at inquests at York Coroner’s Court yesterday (19th May).

Nicola Handley, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the each of these cases of industrial exposure to asbestos is a stark reminder of the dangers of the deadly substance and the effect it has on workers’ lives decades after their exposure.

At both inquests Acting Senior Coroner Jonathan Leach confirmed that each victim died as a result of malignant mesothelioma – an incurable lung cancer which develops after exposure to asbestos.

These victims include Lynda Gontarek, from Clifton, in York was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2014 and she believed she was exposed to asbestos dust whilst washing her late father’s overalls. He worked as an electrician and foreman at the York Carriage Works.

In June 2014 Lynda was treated for a chest infection and went to see her GP after she started to suffer from back pain and struggling to breathe. She was admitted to York District Hospital where she had an x-ray and CT scan. She later had a biopsy at Castle Hill Hospital and was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Keith Spencer from Bishopthorpe in York, worked as a coach builder for British Rail at the York Carriage Works since he left school until he was made redundant in 1999.

In September 2014, Keith began to feel unwell and his health deteriorated rapidly; he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and sadly died on 19 October 2014 at the age of 70, just a month after falling ill.

The Acting Senior Coroner stated that it was not unusual to be dealing with deaths caused by industrial diseases involving people who worked at the Carriage Works.

Nicola Handley, a specialist industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing the families, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer which causes a great deal of suffering to its victims. Unfortunately it still remains incurable, and means asbestos is the biggest occupational killer of all time.

“Asbestos has long been associated with heavy industry, including sites like the York Carriage Works, but sadly, we are seeing an increasing number of people being affected who have not worked directly with asbestos, such as Lynda.

“Every day at Irwin Mitchell we work with people whose lives have been ruined by incurable occupational diseases. It’s shocking to see the impact illnesses such as mesothelioma have on our clients both physically and mentally. We are often able to recover the cost of their care and lost earnings, but compensation cannot provide any form of cure

Keith’s daughter, Lisa Watson, said: “My mum and I couldn’t believe how quickly my dad deteriorated; he lost a lot of weight and had to have round-the-clock care at home.

“We have always been a very close family and we have been left completely heartbroken after my dad died – my mum had been married to him for 46 years and we have all found it incredibly difficult to adjust to life without him.

“Mesothelioma is a horrible illness, and it was horrendous having to watch my dad suffer in the way that he did and there was nothing we could do to help him. It has been extremely difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that he was exposed to asbestos throughout his entire working career and that, after all those years of service, the working conditions which he faced on a daily basis, ultimately killed him.”

Lynda's daughter, Jane Thompson, said: “The diagnosis came as such a shock particularly as my Mum had never worked directly with asbestos. It was devastating the speed at which this dreadful disease robbed her of her life. It has left a huge hole in our lives which can never be filled.”