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May 15, 2015

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Thomas Cook ‘thoroughly’ revises health and safety policy

Holiday firm, Thomas Cook has “thoroughly revised” its health and safety policy after it was found to have “breached its duty of care” in the case of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu, an inquest jury has concluded.

Bobby and Christi Shepherd were aged six and seven when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty hot water boiler at their hotel in October 2006.

An investigation by the Greek authorities had cleared Thomas Cook’s employees of any wrong doing.

Sharon Wood, mother of the two children, said: “It’s clear Thomas Cook should and could have identified that lethal boiler. There will never be true justice for the deaths of my two innocent children. [The verdict] has brought this tragedy to a respectful end.”

The children, from Horbury near Wakefield, were on holiday at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel with their father, Neil, and his now wife, Ruth, when they died.

They were found by a chambermaid in a bungalow at the hotel.

Their father and stepmother had also become ill and were in a coma when they were found but recovered in hospital.

The inquest heard the faulty hot water boiler had been housed in an outbuilding attached to the side of the bungalow where the family were staying.

The children’s father, Neil Shepherd, said Thomas Cook had “hidden behind a wall of silence”.

“Thomas Cook failed our family. That boiler room should have been checked,” he said.

Thomas Cook said in a statement it had been “shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss” of the children but there had been a thorough investigation by the Greek authorities which had cleared its employees of any wrongdoing.

A criminal trial was held in Greece in 2010 and three people, including the manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel and two members of staff, were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and sentenced to seven years.

Eight other people were cleared, including two Thomas Cook travel reps.

Tour operator Thomas Cook said it had changed its health and safety policy to protect its customers since the tragic loss of two children in one of their holiday apartments.

A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “Thomas Cook recognises that the pain caused by this terrible accident will never go away and must be still very hard for friends and family to bear.

“The systems which were in place in 2006, which were intended to prevent such a tragedy, have since been thoroughly revised and address the criticisms made by the jury.

“Thomas Cook works with dedicated specialist external health and safety experts to audit holiday properties. The health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance and we continuously review and strive to improve all our procedures.

“The Coroner had directed the jury that the only conclusion to reach was unlawful killing as legally it had to be consistent with the Greek verdicts.”

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchcliff said he would make a series of recommendations to the holiday industry at a later date.

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