Thomas Cook set to lead way in Europe for better carbon monoxide safety after deaths of Yorkshire children

Bobby and Christie Shepherd inquest, Wakefield'Mary Creagh MP
Bobby and Christie Shepherd inquest, Wakefield'Mary Creagh MP
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A HOLIDAY COMPANY who breached their duty of care over the deaths of two children poisoned by carbon monoxide in Greece has signalled to their parents they’ll lead the fight in Europe to improve regulation in holiday accomodation.

Bobby and Christi Shepherd, from Wakefield, died while on holiday in Corfu with their parents in October 2006 and earlier this year an inquest found that they were unflawfully killed.

Sharon Wood with Paul Wood (right, husband) and Neil Shepherd (left, ex-husband)

Sharon Wood with Paul Wood (right, husband) and Neil Shepherd (left, ex-husband)

The youngsters, aged six and seven, were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty boiler at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel on the Greek holiday island.

On Monday the children’s parents Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood, from Horbury, Wakefield, and experts on carbon monoxide regulation and doctors will gather in Parliament to mark carbon monoxide safety awareness week nine years after the children’s tragic death.

MP for Wakefield, Mary Creagh, said the family are determined that Bobby and Christi’s legacy is that such a terrible loss never happens to another family.

Yet their fight continues to get carbon monoxide alarms installed in holiday accomodation within resorts, apartments and villas in the European Union with gas boilers and for much better safety regulation.

On Monday Ms Creagh said she expects to hear more Thomas Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser on the company’s assurances made to Sharon and Neil in the last few months in person that ‘they are going to lead on getting regulation at an EU level.”

Ms Creagh said: “If Thomas Cook decide that they want to lead on regulation that’s a huge share of the holiday market.”

Currently there are no rules across Europe that dicate holiday accomodation should have carbon monoxide alarms, however at the end of October progress was made when MEPs voted on the recommendation that the Commission brings forward legislation to improve carbon monoxide safety and fire safety for tourism premises in the EU.

However before the EU Commission puts a law on the table, it needs much stronger backing from the British Government, and Conservative MPs voted against the idea in the initial recommendation.

However there is nothing to stop companies adopting better carbon monoxide safety as best practice.

Thomas Cook will also discuss their Safer Tourism Foundation, which will focus on all aspects of making holidays safer for customers, and has taken advice from Sharon and Neil on how it should operate.

Ms Creagh said: “The family have shown incredible strength. It’s been uphill all the way, and nothing has been easy for them.

“Their dearest wish is that no other family suffers like theirs.”

Recognising the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning will also be discussed on Monday with A and E doctor Simon Clarke.

The odourless gas claims the life of 40 people a year in the UK and is respsonsible for 4000 hospitalisations.

“It’s not something the medical community is particularly alive to,” said Ms Creagh.

“In A and E it can be diagnosed as flu - the symptoms are very similar with headaches, shivering, feeling cold - or gastroenteritus.

“Those people might go to to hospital but their blood gases have not been measured,”

It was revealed a British couple staying in the same villa as Bobby and Christi the week before, had gone to hospital suffering from what doctors diagnosed as gastroenteritus but what is now believed to be signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) welcome the new Government legislation that came into effect on October 1 means that landlords in Britain must ensure CO alarms are installed in every room that contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

However, APHC believes this could go further to apply to all fuels and appliances including higher risk gas or oil appliances.

John Thompson, Chief Executive at APHC said: “High profile cases such as the Thomas Cook villa incident are making people more aware of the dangers of faulty boilers but much more can be done to ensure householders are protected using very simple and inexpensive alarms to provide an early warning.”