Family Continue Battle For Justice
A former welder who died because of a deadly lung disease believed his illness was caused by the safety equipment issued to protect him - his family now hopes his former colleagues can help as they continue his fight for justice.
John William Turner, who worked as a welder for Blackett and Charlton, died on 18 January 2011, aged 70, just six months after first experiencing symptoms caused by Mesothelioma.
Mr Turner was diagnosed with the asbestos related lung disease in November 2010 after first experiencing breathlessness in August 2010. He was convinced it was caused by the asbestos safety blankets that were supposed to protect workers.
From 1968 to 1984 Mr Turner regularly used the asbestos blankets whilst employed by Blackett and Charlton (now known as Charlton Leslie) at ICI Billingham, ICI Wilton and North Tees Oil Refinery Plant.
Prior to his death Mr Turner sought help from Roger Maddocks a partner and industrial illness specialist at the Newcastle office of Irwin Mitchell to support his bid for justice against his former employers – following his death Mr Turner’s family have decided to continue the legal battle in his memory.
The three sites where Mr Turner was exposed to asbestos were still in use so he would carry out his maintenance work around his colleagues who, at times, may have been working alongside flammable materials.
To prevent stray sparks from igniting any oil or petrol which may have spilt Mr Turner would work over asbestos safety blankets which were cut to size and laid out under his work area.
Mr Maddocks said: “For seven years Mr Turner worked extremely closely with safety blankets made from asbestos – the very equipment which was issued to protect him as he worked. Little did he know that over 35 years later it would be these items that would cause him to develop such a terrible illness as Mesothelioma.
“We are now looking for Mr Turner’s former colleagues from the ICI Billingham, Wilton Plants and North Tees Oil Refinery Plant to come forward to help support this case and to bring his former employers, who he worked for loyally for over 15 years, to justice.”
In a statement made before his death Mr Turner said: “I still cannot believe that the materials which were provided to protect us could be so dangerous.
“If I was working close to the ground I would often lie on the safety blankets. When I’d stand up my blue boiler suit would be covered in grey dust – not knowing the dangers which it posed I would simply brush it off, releasing the substance into the atmosphere and helping it to spread through the air.
“We should never have been using these blankets and I’m angry that Blackett and Charlton were able to get away with using them for so long – they have put so many people’s lives as risk and should now have to answer to their actions.”
As a result of his illness Mr Turner, who retired in December 2001, became increasingly breathless and in the weeks leading up to his death was unable to walk further than two hundred yards without becoming out of breath.
Roger Maddocks of Irwin Mitchell is interested in speaking to employees who worked at the ICI Billingham, Wilton Plants and North Tees Oil Refinery Plant from 1968 to 1975. Anyone who has any information should contact Roger Maddocks at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0095.