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Widow Of Former Rigger Appeals For His Ex Colleagues To Help In Her Battle For Justice

Lawyers Help Investigate How Dad-Of-Two Died Was Exposed To Asbestos


By Suzanne Rutter

The heartbroken widow of a former power plant worker who died from an incurable industrial illness is appealing for his ex colleagues to come forward with information about his asbestos exposure to find out if more could potentially have been done by his employer to protect him.

John Gerald McLeod, who was known as Ian, died aged 66 on 4 August 2011 at home after a two month battle with asbestosis and lung cancer, caused by exposure to deadly asbestos dust and fibres.

Before his death, the dad-of-two from Longlands in Middlesbrough, told his wife Eileen that he believed he was exposed to asbestos while working for chemical manufacturing company ICI at their Billingham Plant between 1968 and 1970 and at their Wilton Plant between 1979 and 1994 as a rigger. He was based at the firm’s power station at Billingham between 1968 and 1970 and worked at the firm’s Wilton plant between 1979 and 1994.

His job entailed erecting scaffolding to allow other labourers to lag the power stations’ extensive maze of pipe work. He recalled the scaffolding boards were always covered in asbestos dust and he regularly had to chip old asbestos off the scaffolding.

Eileen has now instructed specialist industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell and together they are appealing for Ian’s ex colleagues to come forward with the vital information they need about the working conditions he endured to help his family get the answers they deserve.

Roger Maddocks, an expert industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office representing Eileen, said: “Asbestosis and lung cancer are aggressive and incurable illnesses which cause so much distress for victims like Ian and their families who worked in industrial settings such as power stations, where we know asbestos was regularly used.

“Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos exposure despite knowing how dangerous it is. We hope that Ian’s former colleagues will come forward to help us investigate why more wasn’t done to protect employees like him from the deadly affects of asbestos so we can get his family the justice they deserve.”

Ian first started to show the symptoms of asbestosis and lung cancer in April 2011 when he suffered from a cough and breathlessness. Tests and scans at the James Cook Hospital in June 2011 confirmed he was suffering from asbestosis and lung cancer. In the last few months of his life he struggled to walk and relied on a wheelchair to get out and about. He died of lung cancer on 4 August 2011 - just two months after he received the heartbreaking diagnosis.

Ian and Eileen met in March 1965 at Middlesbrough General Hospital where Eileen was a nurse and Ian, a seaman at the time, was treated for a hand injury. They were married on 22 July the following year.

He leaves behind two children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His wife Eileen, age 68, said: “It’s still incredibly hard to come to terms with the fact we’ve lost Ian to such a terrible illness and the whole family miss him every day. We were married for 45 years so I feel completely lost without him.

“He told me a lot about his work at the power station and Cyanide Plant at ICI and said it was a tough job and a really dusty environment to work in. He said he remembered asbestos was widely used throughout ICI’s plant and he worked directly alongside the fitters and laggers who mixed the asbestos paste before applying it to the pipe work.

“He said he often had to chip off the old asbestos from his rigging equipment and scaffolding and couldn’t help but breathe in the deadly dust. In the early days he said he was never warned how dangerous asbestos could be to his health but he was eventually given a flimsy paper mask to wear over his mouth and nose, although I’m not sure how much this would have helped him.

“I now hope as many of his ex work mates as possible will help the team at Irwin Mitchell investigate if more could potentially have been done by his employer to protect him from the dreadful affects of asbestos, as well as Ian’s recollection of how ICI used asbestos, so we can finally honour his memory and get the justice we deserve for losing him in such a terrible way.”

Anyone with information about the working conditions at ICI Billingham should contact Kirstie Wilson on 0191 279 0136 or Roger Maddocks on 0191 279 0095 at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office or email roger.maddocks@irwinmitchell.com.

Our expert asbestos lung cancer solicitors will provide you with free initial advice on your compensation claim if you or a loved on has been diagnosed with lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.