Parents of Corfu gas death children welcome review into Thomas Cook's actions


The parents of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday in Corfu have welcomed a review criticising Thomas Cook's treatment of the family following the deaths.

Bobby and Christi Shepherd, aged six and seven, died at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler during a holiday with their father and stepmother in October 2006.

Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd, the children's parents, said the report into Thomas Cook's customer, health, safety, welfare and crisis management was "a move in the right direction and the next step in what has been a long, hard fight for justice".

An inquest earlier this year into the deaths of Bobby and Christi, from Horbury, near Wakefield, found they had been unlawfully killed and the tour operator had "breached their duty of care".

The independent review, carried out by former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King, criticised the travel firm's relationship with the family in the nine years since the children's deaths and concluded that parts of the business were putting financial priorities ahead of customers' needs.

It said: "Individual profit centres such as the 'airline' and 'destination management' (divisions) have a tendency to protect cost rather than maximise the customer experience."

Mr King made 49 recommendations about health and safety, carbon monoxide, quality assurance and contracting, destination management, customer service and relations and incident management.

Thomas Cook, which described the review as "uncomfortable reading", said it accepted the findings and had already taken action on a number of recommendations.

Mrs Wood and Mr Shepherd said they welcomed Thomas Cook's "new proactive approach in addressing the mistakes they made that led to the deaths of Christi and Bobby".

They said in a statement: "Our hope is that we can bring about change that will dramatically reduce the number of deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide, both in the UK and abroad.

"We feel optimistic for the future but continue to call for all tour operators to put the health and well-being of their customers at the heart of their industry."

The report said legal considerations dominated the way in which Thomas Cook dealt with the family after the deaths, meaning that "decisions were often not taken in the thoughtful and caring way you would expect".

It said: "The company did reach out to the family several times over the years but these approaches were intermittent, sometimes ill-timed and often ill-judged.

"Conversely, approaches from the family met with untimely and somewhat abrupt responses, or, in the case of Mr Shepherd's attempts to arrange a meeting with the company in 2013, no response at all."

Thomas Cook and the family will launch a new carbon monoxide charity, The Safer Tourism Foundation, later this month and Mrs Wood is collaborating with the company to develop a "bereavement help pack".

The report recommended that Thomas Cook should include a section on carbon monoxide in its brochures and website and train resort staff about the risks.

It also said the company should take a "leading role" in collating industry data on health and safety issues and should offer customers the option of buying a carbon monoxide monitor as part of the holiday booking process.

The review said Thomas Cook had made improvements and was beginning to listen to customers and respond quickly.

But it found the firm was "slow to change" on health and safety issues and said it must not be "shy of taking the lead" in industry-wide matters.

Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, described the report as "damning" in its assessment of Thomas Cook's treatment of the family.

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