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Settlement For Nurse Who Fractured Spine

Expert Travel Lawyers Secure Vital Funds For Rehabilitation


A nurse who fractured her spine when she was thrown into the air in rough waves while onboard a boat trip to swim with whale sharks has called for Tour Operators to improve the safety of excursions after receiving a settlement to help with her recovery.

Carol Smith, 53, from Wakefield travelled to Cancun, Mexico, in July 2011 for a relaxing two-week break with her husband after finishing a course of radiotherapy for cancer. They had booked an excursion to swim with whale sharks but the sea was so rough that she fractured her spine when she was thrown into the air and crashed back down onto her seat.

Passengers had been pleading with the captain to return to shore as torrential rain and rough waves crashed into the boat but instead he carried on out to sea.

Mother-of-two Carol instructed specialist travel lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the safety of the excursion and to try to help secure funds to cover her losses and the treatment and rehabilitation she has needed following her injuries.

The law firm has now secured Carol an undisclosed five-figure settlement from Tour Operator Thomson Holidays and expert lawyers from Irwin Mitchell say Tour Operators must ensure that excursions they promote are safe for their customers.

Gurpinder Chana, an expert travel lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Carol said: "The couple booked the excursion through their representatives from Thomson Holidays because they believed in the company’s reputation and thought that the trip would be safe. They had no idea it was just a local business running the actual trip.

"Thomson should have ensured that the company undertaking the excursion and their employees would take all reasonable steps to ensure their client’s safety. As it happened, the skipper of the boat allowed it to travel far too fast in conditions which should have led to him being more cautious.

"Unfortunately, the excursion was a disaster for Carol. She suffered serious injuries to her back, putting her out of action for months, from which she continues to suffer pain and disability from now.

"Carol has now received the justice that she deserves. The settlement we have secured for Carol will compensate her for her pain and suffering, help cover her financial losses and expenses and provide her with funds to cover the costs of any future treatment and rehabilitation she may need to help with her recovery."

Carol said: "I had only just finished a course of radiotherapy as I recovered from cancer and my husband and I were using the holiday as a celebration of my recovery, but instead it was just an absolute nightmare.

"The holiday reps from Thomson recommended the excursion and, having been on many boat trips before including fishing trips in Mauritius and Mexico, we really wanted to go.

"We paid via the Thomson desk in the hotel and at no point were we given details of a local supplier so we just assumed it was being run by Thomson.

"The safety talk before we set off was all about how to behave around the whale sharks but we were never told anything about sitting in the boat or what to do in an emergency."

Around an hour into the trip, Carol was thrown out of her seat as the boat hit rough waves before landing back down onto the hard plastic seat, sending a sudden excruciating pain through her spine. The boat then hit a second wave sending Carol around a foot into the air before again crashing down on her spine causing her to scream out in agony.

At this time, the weather was becoming worse and there was torrential rain causing the sea to become rougher, with some passengers being violently seasick.

Carol added: "The captain seemed to think it was a race and we were flying past other boats even though everyone was crashing around on board and pleading to go back to shore. Another passenger had also hurt her knee but the Captain just kept on going.

"When I was thrown into the air the second time, I just couldn’t move and I thought I’d been paralysed. I just had to try and sit still on the boat and hold on.

"When we eventually got to the whale sharks, I couldn’t even turn to look at them because of the pain. I’d paid to swim with whale sharks and instead was stuck on the boat in agony dreading the return voyage."

When they returned to the port after a four hour round trip, Carol needed help from her husband, another passenger and the tour guide to get off the boat and needed a wheelchair to get around the hotel for much of the rest of the holiday.

After being diagnosed with a spine fracture in the UK, Carol was bed bound for 12 days before being given a body brace to wear for around eight weeks to keep her spine straight. She underwent physiotherapy but still suffers from pains in her back even now, more than two years on.

Carol added: "I had to have six months off work while I recovered and needed almost constant care for weeks after the accident. I’m angry at what happened and it has been hard work trying to recover.

"I just hope that Tour Operators take note of my case and ensure that the excursions they offer are safe for other holidaymakers. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer as I have.

"Hopefully now the settlement will help me to continue with my recovery and help me to put the whole ordeal behind me."

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