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Devastated Widow Of Former Rugby League Player Appeals For His Ex Colleagues To Help Investigation

Industrial Illness Experts Ask Former Colleagues For Help


The devastated widow of a former Rugby League player and Wakefield bus depot worker who died after suffering from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is backing calls for his former colleagues to get in touch as they may hold vital information about how and why he came into contact with the deadly dust.

Before his death in November 2012 Stanley Smith told his wife Molly he believed the debilitating condition he was diagnosed with in October 2012 was caused by asbestos exposure during his career at the West Riding Automobile Company Ltd, Belle Isle depot, Wakefield where he worked between 1952 and 2002 as a trimmer in a depot which converted ambulances used during the Second World War into buses.

The 75-year-old, who was a winger for Wakefield Trinity and Bramley Rugby League teams in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was responsible for trimming bus seat covers before replacing them in the refurbished vehicles.

He worked alongside colleagues responsible for handling asbestos-covered brake and clutch linings and regularly came into contact with the asbestos-lagged heating pipes. He also recalled working next to the firm’s boiler house, which was re-lagged with new asbestos every year.

Molly, of Agbrigg Road in Wakefield, has instructed expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to find out how and why her husband of 51-years was exposed to the deadly dust.

Ian Toft, from Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office representing Molly, said: “Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer and causes so much distress to victims like Stanley and their families. At Irwin Mitchell we often hear about people who have worked alongside asbestos-lagged pipe work and in boiler rooms on a regular basis. Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos exposure despite knowing how dangerous it is.

We hope that Stanley’s ex colleagues from the West Riding Automobile Company will come forward with information about the working conditions he endured and to shed light on why more wasn’t done by his employers to protect him from asbestos so that we can help Molly get the justice she deserves in her husband’s memory.”

Stanley, a dad of two daughters, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, first started to show the symptoms of mesothelioma in May 2012 when he suffered from back and chest pains. His doctor referred him to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield for further tests which confirmed he was suffering from the cancer.

He died in November 2012 after battling the disease for less than a year and an inquest into his death has been opened and adjourned in Wakefield.

Molly, also 75, said: “Stanley always said his job was dirty and dusty and he came home every day with mucky overalls on. He told me before he died that he would work on the bus depot’s workshop floor alongside mechanics who were servicing the vehicles and fixing the asbestos-lagged pipes and engines. He said he couldn’t help but breathe the dust in because they all worked so closely together.

He also talked about the firm’s annual shut-down where they used to strip the boiler and re-lag the pipes with asbestos as part of the annual inspection. He said the job lasted about two or three weeks every year and created a really dusty atmosphere at work.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think he dedicated almost 50 years of his life to the company and ended up paying with his life. He was never warned about how harmful asbestos could be to his health and was never given a mask to protect him from the worst of it.

“He was always so fit and healthy, especially when he played rugby professionally when he was younger, so it was awful to see the illness take hold.

“I know he was well known and liked at the firm after spending five decades there so I hope his ex work mates will help Irwin Mitchell’s investigations so that I can honour his memory.”

Anyone with information about the working conditions at the West Riding Automobile Company from 1952 to 1992 should contact Ian Toft at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office on 0113 218 6453 or email ian.toft@irwinmitchell.com.