Couple Awarded Out Of Court Compensation Settlement
A British tourist who watched her husband save a woman’s life in a fire in Nepal has called for an improvement in safety standards.
Hilary Burton and her husband were staying at a lodge in the Royal Chitwan National Park as part of a “Highlights of India & Nepal Touring Holiday” with Cox and Kings Travel Limited.
The couple were awarded an out of court compensation settlement but have called for more to be done to prevent further incidents in the future.
Laura Calder of Irwin Mitchell represented the couple and said: “We understood that the kerosene heater in their fellow guests’ hut fell apart causing the flames to spread and engulf the female guest. Though Mr Burton was able to put out the flames, he sustained burns to his hands and suffered with the effects of smoke inhalation, whilst Mrs Burton suffered post traumatic stress disorder as a result of watching the horrific incident unfold.”
Mrs Burton reported that staff placed kerosene lamps and heaters in the huts at night and said that this was an accident waiting to happen as the huts were made from wood, bamboo, dried grass and raffia.
She said: “Our poor neighbour was left with very serious burns, but it could have been so much worse had my husband not acted so quickly. He put out the flames on her clothing but we had to watch as the hut she was in burnt to the ground – anybody could have been trapped in there. I was shocked at how quickly the straw huts were engulfed in such huge flames.
“Though our injuries were relatively minor in comparison, I felt we had a duty to raise awareness of the safety standards on this trip and in similar huts throughout the world – it was a costly holiday but we learned that expensive doesn’t necessarily mean safe.”
Laura Calder, a specialist in travel claims at Irwin Mitchell, said she was horrified at the number of safety failings.
She said: “This was meant to be a luxury, top-of-the-range holiday and it clearly fell well short of those standards, but no matter how much you’ve paid for a trip overseas, you should be able to rely on your accommodation being reasonably safe.
“Standards of safety do vary from country to country. One cannot expect the same standards of comfort and safety in all countries and this is part of the charm and attraction of taking a holiday in a country like Nepal. Nevertheless, there were a number of basic failures which endangered the safety of our clients and which simply should not have happened, no matter where a holiday was taken. These included the use of old and rusty kerosene heaters which allegedly had not been appropriately maintained or inspected correctly. The heaters in question simply should not have been used in a wooden hut.
“Furthermore, the camp did not provide emergency lighting, trained first aiders, and instructions to guests as to what to do in the event of a fire or other emergency. Finally, there were no fire breaks around the huts. The injured guests sustained some terrible injuries but it’s bordering on a miracle that nobody was more seriously hurt.”
Mrs Burton and her husband booked a two week “Highlights of India & Nepal Touring Holiday” through Cox and Kings Travel Limited, travelling from 26th January 2007. The incident occurred on 7th February 2007, their second evening at the lodge.