Family speak out after inquest into Whitwell man’s asbestos death

A WHITWELL man died from pneumonia after years of suffering from asbestosis, an inquest heard.

Michael Ward, 69, from Butt Hill Close in Whitwell, died at Doncaster Royal Infirmary on 28th July 2012.

An inquest at Doncaster Coroner’s Court on Thursday 30th August heard that the retired lorry driver was an engineer in the Royal Navy from 1955 until 1963, where he was likely to have been exposed to asbestos whilst working aboard the HMS Ark Royal R09.

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Mr Ward spent the later years of his life wheelchair-bound and on 24-hour oxygen therapy.

Michael’s son Christopher Ward from Knott End in Langold told the court: “He worked in the boiler and engine rooms and told me that the piping on those ships was laced with asbestos. The vibration of the planes taking off and landing would have made the fibres airborne and all on board would be more susceptible to asbestosis.”

The coroner concluded that Mr Ward’s asbestosis ‘must have inhibited the function of his lungs to a great extent and increased the chance of an infection such as pneumonia’.

The inquest also heard that while a report stated that Mr Ward was diagnosed with pneumonia at Bassetlaw Hospital, the family were ‘extremely distressed’ that they were not informed of the cause of their father’s death until they received the death certificate weeks later - having previously been told that he had a perforated bowel which was inoperable to his deterioration.

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Chris added: “We’re very upset due to the wrong diagnosis that they told me.”

Frederick Curtis, HM Deputy Coroner for South Yorkshire East, referred to this as ‘miscommunication’ before he recorded the official cause of death as an industrial disease.

Speaking after the inquest, Chris Ward told the Guardian: “Our father was a good and kind man - he donated his wheelchair and walking frames to the pensioners of Whitwell. He was very independent and loved to do his own thing”

He added: “The part I’m not happy about is the lack of communication from Bassetlaw and Doncaster Hospitals. At no point were we made aware of his pneumonia and this has really upset us - I don’t want this happening to anyone else.”

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“We will also be following up our father’s asbestosis with the Royal Navy - we want justice for our dad and other sufferers from the Forces out there.”

A spokesperson for Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Mr Ward’s family have not contacted us about this so we cannot comment, but we would of course be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns they have and would encourage them to get in touch with us.”

A spokesman from the Ministry of Defence said: “Our thoughts remain with Michael Ward’s family at this difficult time. Any former member of the Armed Forces who is injured or disabled as a result of service prior to 6th April 2005 may be entitled to claim a War Disablement Pension and their spouse or partner may receive a war widow/ers pension.”

He added: “When compensation claims are submitted they are considered on the basis of whether or not the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation. Where there is a legal liability to pay compensation we do so.”