Ministry of Defence sued after Army base blaze ‘scattered toxic asbestos like snow’

The fire scattered ash containing asbestos across a 15-square-mile area, close to the base at Donnington, Shrops.

Firefighters tackling the blaze at Donnington.

The Ministry of Defence is being sued by lawyers for three victims who lived near an Army base after a fire scattered toxic asbestos ‘like snow’.

The inquest of mother-of-four Susan Maughan, 63, ruled she died in 2015 from mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by asbestos, yet was never exposed to it at work.

Instead a coroner linked it to the fact that in 1983 she lived by the Army’s Central Ordnance Depot at Donnington, near Telford, Shrops., when it was hit by a devastating blaze.

The fire scattered ash containing asbestos across a 15-square-mile area, requiring Army teams in protective suits to clean up nearby streets and villages.

Now lawyers for the family and two others are preparing to sue the MoD after the coroner said she was “almost certainly” exposed to the MoD’s asbestos.

Her children even recalled playing in the “snow-like” asbestos-laden ash and now fear they too could be harbouring the same deadly disease.

Daughter Lorraine Laketic, 45, only 12 at the time of the blaze, said: “I remember grey snowflakes falling from the sky onto our street and our garden.

“We all played in it thinking it was Christmas. My mother always liked tidiness, even in her garden.

“I remember watching her picking up the debris off the floor and putting it into our garden bin.”

The hearing in March 2016 was told by Mrs Maughan’s GP, Dr Peter Larmour, that she visited the surgery on two occasions in 2011 and 2012 with breathing difficulties.

Mrs Maughan, of Winsford, Cheshire, was diagnosed with mesothelioma and began chemotherapy treatment, which lasted for three years.

On one occasion she had to be treated for a collapsed lung as a result of the disease, the inquest was told.

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In March 2015 a CT scan showed the tumours were spreading and Ms Maughan was deemed “not fit for further chemotherapy”, the doctor said.

Mrs Maughan, who also had a son Allan, 27, was a grandmother-of-eight and had also just become a great-grandma when she passed away in October 2015.

Her post mortem concluded there was “no definitive proof” of asbestos in her body though it was possible the cancer was caused by asbestos exposure.

John Pollard, Senior Coroner for Manchester South, who recorded the death was an accident, said: “In my view there is no evidence that she was exposed to asbestos where she worked.

“There is significant evidence she may, well almost certainly, was exposed to asbestos in the aftermath of the Donnington explosion.”

Now lawyers, also dealing with another two cases in relation to the same fire, are investigating whether more should have been done to protect them.

The deaths of Ellen Paddock, 31, and Paula Ann Nunn, 68, both from mesothelioma, have also previously been linked to the fire.

In 2008, mother-of-three Ms Paddock died with Telford & Wrekin coroner Michael Gwynne linking it to Donnington.

Then in 2015 Shropshire Coroner John Ellery made the same ruling over Mrs Nunn’s death, and linked the two cases together.

The incurable cancer is caused by inhaling or ingesting dust or fibres from asbestos, but can lie dormant in the body for decades.

Madelene Holdsworth, an industrial disease specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, said of the Maughan family: “They’ve lost their mum and now fear they too could be victims of this devastating disease.

“That knowledge is a terrible thing to have to live with. They understandably want answers about whether more could have been done.”

Source: Mirror Online

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