Poor gas work 'led to Corfu deaths'

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The Independent Online

A gas boiler that leaked carbon monoxide into a holiday bungalow and killed two children was the worst installation an expert had seen in 50 years, Corfu town courthouse heard yesterday.

Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her six-year-old brother Robert, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, died after being overcome by fumes while on holiday on the island in 2006. Their father, Neil Shepherd, and his partner, Ruth Beatson, fell into a coma but survived.

Richard Carson and Nicola Gibson, who worked for Thomas Cook when the incident occurred, face charges of manslaughter and negligence. Nine Greeks, including staff from the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel, also face trial.

Harry Rogers, a retired mechanical engineer, investigated the bungalow at the hotel soon after the deaths. The leak, he said, was caused by a catalogue of failings in installation and maintenance: "It's the worst installation I've ever witnessed in 50 years."

He described how a wired-out gas valve, a bypassed thermostat, the lack of a flue and chimney, and a gap between the bungalow and the outhouse where the boiler was contained caused the leak of the poisonous gas. Gaps in unfinished air-conditioning pipes also contributed to the deaths.

He told the court: "I don't know how the tour operator operates, but if any reasonable person that had any knowledge could inspect that boiler – they did not need to be a rocket scientist to know something was wrong."

Thomas Cook has said the accident was "unique and unforeseeable" and was not the fault of Mr Carson or Ms Gibson. The case continues.