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UK Couple on Holiday in Egypt Died of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Coroner Rules

A woman whose parents were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning during a holiday to Egypt has said her family is “broken without them”. John and Susan Cooper, aged 69 and 63 respectively, died after falling ill in their hotel room after a pesticide was sprayed in the room next door to kill bed bugs, a coroner ruled on Friday.

The couple, from Burnley, Lancashire, had been enjoying a “brilliant” holiday while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, the inquest into their deaths was told.

Kelly Ormerod had beeen on holiday with her parents, who she described as fit and healthy for their age, their three grandchildren and family friends.

At around lunchtime on the eighth day of their holiday the room next door to the Coopers’, which had an adjoining door that was kept locked, was fumigated with a pesticide known as Lambda for a bed bug infestation.

The pesticide was diluted with dichloromethane, a chemical that creates carbon monoxide, the inquest heard. The room was then sealed with masking tape around the door and hours later the couple returned to their room next door for the night.

Ormerod’s daughter Molly, 12, who was staying on a single bed in her grandparents’ room, began to feel ill and in the early hours John Cooper took her to her mother’s room.

The next morning Ormerod knocked on her parents’ door after they failed to appear for breakfast. She found her father, a builder, and mother, a bureau de change cashier, seriously ill. Her father was declared dead in the room and her mother hours later in hospital.

Dr James Adeley, the senior coroner for Lancashire sitting at Preston coroner’s court, ruled that the deaths on 21 August 2018 were caused by the spraying of the pesticide containing dichloromethane in the adjoining room and the couple then inhaling the vapour, resulting in their deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

He said the spraying had created sufficient vapour to pass under the adjoining door and poison the couple.

In a statement read outside Preston coroners’ court on Friday, Ormerod said: “Our family still struggle to comprehend what we went through that day and feel like it should never have happened. The last few years have been the most traumatic time for all of us.

“Having to relive everything at the inquest has been harrowing but it was something we had to do for mum and dad. Our family is broken without them.”

Earlier, the three-day inquest heard from Prof Robert Chilcott, a toxicology expert. He told the hearing that in less developed countries the pesticide Lambda was sometimes diluted with dichloromethane, which causes the body to metabolise or ingest carbon monoxide.

The Home Office pathologist Dr Charles Wilson told the hearing the Coopers’ hotel room had not been secured and it would be “inconceivable” such measures would not be taken in the event of a double death in a hotel in the UK.

The inquest heard of repeated attempts to obtain further documents and information from the authorities in Egypt, including numerous requests from the Foreign Office.

Adeley said Susan Cooper’s illness and death was rapid, but described the medical treatment provided for her as “utterly insufficient”. She was taken to a clinic in the hotel before an ambulance was called, causing a delay of four hours before she reached hospital.

Source: The Guardian