Thomas Cook has fulfilled a pledge to back a new, independent charity designed to improve the safety of holidaymakers abroad following the deaths of two children from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Safer Tourism Foundation was born out of the deaths of two young children, Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who died while on holiday with Thomas Cook in Corfu nine years ago.
The foundation, working with the children’s mother Sharon Wood, will start by funding the first Europe-wide research and public health awareness campaign into carbon monoxide.
The foundation has initial funding of £1 million and will look to partner with academic institutions and the wider industry, including Abta.
The launch coincides with Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week and a conference on the subject.
Wood’s MP, Mary Creagh, said: “Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week is an opportunity to take stock of the progress that has been made in raising awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide in the years since Christi and Bobby’s tragic deaths.
“Wakefield coroner David Hinchliff was clear that new laws are needed at UK and EU level to protect families on holiday, and that the medical profession needs to be more systematic in recognising carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Thomas Cook promised the children’s parents they would lead the call from the industry to improve holiday safety, so this conference will be an important milestone for the UK travel industry.”
Wood said: “The way in which one of the largest and most respected tour operators has treated Christi and Bobby’s family is well documented, hard to forgive and impossible to forget.
“With the Safer Tourism Foundation, Thomas Cook have offered a viable initiative to raise the profile of carbon monoxide and improve carbon monoxide safety both in the UK and abroad.
“I sincerely believe that after almost a decade a collaborative approach is the best way forward. After all, it is all we ever asked for that lessons be learned from our tragedy so that lives can be saved in the future.
“I have high expectations of this foundation and look forward to being involved with the work it will do. I hope it will be well received and supported because, on a personal level, this charity is born of my children’s deaths – it’s Christi and Bobby’s legacy so it really, truly matters to me.”
Cook group chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said: “The deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd represent the darkest hour in the history of Thomas Cook. We are grateful to be working with Sharon Wood to launch the Safer Tourism Foundation.
“By funding detailed research into carbon monoxide and campaigning for legislative change in the UK and Europe, the foundation aims to effect real change.
“I am personally deeply committed to making this a success and hope that the work of the foundation will honour the memories of Christi and Bobby by having a positive impact on the lives of all holidaymakers.”
Initial research conducted by YouGov, covering more than 12,000 Europeans, reveals that carbon monoxide poisoning has affected the lives of more than one in ten Europeans.
Yet despite the risks, public awareness and knowledge remains low, with more than a third of people surveyed incorrectly stating that carbon monoxide could be detected by human senses.
More than half of respondents (56%) agreed there should be more information available about the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The foundation’s first objective will be to commission academic research to create a Europe-wide picture of the scale of the problem and then campaign for legislative change.
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