Many will by now be familiar with the names Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who aged just seven and six, tragically lost their lives as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst on a four star family holiday at a Thomas Cook run hotel. The details behind this case have driven home the importance of taking all the necessary measures to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning for holiday homeowners and accommodation providers both in the UK and abroad.
Tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning for holiday homeowners
The cause of this heartbreak, which also left two adults in the bungalow comatose and fighting for their lives, was identified as the gas-fired hot water boiler in an outhouse next to the bedrooms and has highlighted the potentially fatal consequences of ignoring carbon monoxide safety, or getting it wrong. Hopefully by taking a closer look at this tragic case and reviewing the outcomes will provide a positive focus on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning for holiday homeowners and letting agents.
After booking the £2,000 break with Thomas Cook the family arrived on the Greek island of Corfu and were placed in a bungalow at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel.
On the third day of their trip both children began to display some of the signs associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, including dizziness.
That evening their father and his partner Miss Beatson went to the children who were heard crying and ‘whimpering’ during the night. Bobby and Christi had become overcome by carbon monoxide, and had been particularly affected, as their room was closest to the faulty water boiler.
Once in the bedroom both adults fell into a coma and were close to death when found by a maid the next morning, along with the bodies of the children.
What caused the build up of carbon monoxide?
Thomas Magner, a boiler expert hired by Thomas Cook to investigate, told the Inquest he had discovered a series of faults with the gas boiler, which had resulted in the massive build up in levels of carbon monoxide.
He indicated the boiler had become covered in rust from water leakage over a long period of time, and also been installed without a ‘chimney’ or flue to take away unwanted fumes.
He added that a device designed to cut power to the boiler if it were to overheat had been disabled as little as a day earlier, reportedly to avoid a worker having to come and relight the boiler should the device trip the system.
These problems were exacerbated by a hole in the bedroom wall, which had been designed for air conditioning and not sealed, and allowed fumes to quickly fill the room.
The inquest was told problems with the boiler were first reported five months earlier and ruled that the children had been unlawfully killed and concluded that travel firm Thomas Cook breached its duty of care to the family.
The consequences of this tragedy are unfortunately not unique; carbon monoxide has been the cause of 40 injuries and deaths in holiday accommodation in Britain over the past two years*. Please ensure that Gas Safety is high on your holiday home maintenance priority list and that you remain vigilant in ensuring your visitors are able to enjoy a safe stay in your holiday home. Our top tips:
- Gas boilers and appliances in holiday lets must by law be serviced and have a gas safety check annually – use a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.
- Provide a copy of your Gas Safe Check certificates to your Holiday Home Letting Agent annually – they’ll want to be sure your holiday let is safe for guests.
- Keep an up to date copy of your Gas Safety Check Certificate(s) in your Welcome Information Pack – it’ll give your guests peace of mind.
- Place instructions for Gas Boilers and Appliances in your Welcome Information Pack for your guests to refer to.
- Carbon Monoxide Alarms should be installed in rooms with gas boilers, gas fires or any fuel burning appliance or open fire.
For further information on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning for holiday homeowners and gas safety in your holiday home please visit:
- Protect yourself and your guests from carbon monoxide poisoning
- Communicating Gas Safety to your Holiday Home Guests
- Holiday Let Owners warned that Gas and cowboys don’t mix
Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK as well as let property insurance for buy to let landlords. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.
Ref * Gas Safe Register