Bobby and Christi Shepherd - coroner calls for action to prevent further deaths

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff has called on the government to introduce legislation to help prevent future holidaymakers from being killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Christi and Bobby Shepherd.

In May an inquest found that Horbury schoolchildren Bobby and Christi Shepherd were unlawfully killed when carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty boiler seeped into the Corfu bungalow they were staying in during a half term holiday in 2006.

Tour operator Thomas Cook, who the family had booked the holiday with, was also found to have ‘breached its duty of care.’

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Mr Hinchliff has now written a report calling for a publicly accessible register to be set up where tour operators have to keep up-to-date information on all gas and heating appliances at all hotels and holiday homes.

David Hinchliff. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

He also said ‘that the relevant UK Government department should consult, draft, instigate and implement EU legislation on gas installations and carbon monoxide safety, and introduce common minimal standards for all hotels, apartments and other holiday premises.’

Mr Hinchliff also recommended that safety checks should be carried out by qualified health and safety specialists – not ‘often inexperienced and overworked’ tour reps; publicity campaigns should be launched to encourage tourists to take portable carbon monoxide detectors on holiday and all holiday brochures should contain ‘clear and easy-to-understand’ warnings about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the report Mr Hinchliff said: “The industry should endeavour to regulate itself by introducing improvements in the health and safety of holidaymakers.”

He also said that Thomas Cook ‘should be at the forefront of such initiatives to create industry wide protocols and initiatives on the lines that legislation would introduce, should that ever occur.’

Mr Hinchliff gave the government until November 16 to respond to his recommendations.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said: “The Coroner’s report makes clear that the government should be leading on improving carbon monoxide safety standards in holiday premises across Europe. The government has a duty of care to our citizens, and the Prime Minister should prioritise the safety of British tourists as he renegotiates the UK’s relationship with the EU.

“As one of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook now has an opportunity to show leadership and make real changes to prevent another tragedy. Where it leads, others will follow.”

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “We welcome the comprehensive work that has been carried out by David Hinchliff, the Senior Coroner for the Eastern Area of West Yorkshire, following the inquest into the tragic deaths of Christianne and Robert Shepherd. As a company we are now reviewing his report and the suggestions he has made for both the wider travel industry and for Thomas Cook.

“We will continue to work with the travel industry and ABTA to identify possible improvements that may be appropriate for implementation across the industry.

“We are already working with Sharon Wood, Bobby and Christi’s mum, on a new initiative to raise awareness about carbon monoxide, in order to tackle some of the issues head on.”