Fumes exposure killed father - inquest

A FATHER-of-two who died 10 minutes after his family left his hospital bedside was killed by a lung infection brought on by inhaling toxic gases at work, an inquest has heard.

A FATHER-of-two who died 10 minutes after his family left his hospital bedside was killed by a lung infection brought on by inhaling toxic gases at work, an inquest has heard.

Robert Bartell , from Lakenheath, was “suffocated” by bacterial pneumonia following exposure to gases from his welding torch on a ship in Holland, where he had been working.

The inquest at Shire Hall in Cambridge heard that the 55-year-old had blamed poor ventilation on the Dutch ship for his declining health after a four week stretch of work on the continent.

When the hydraulics engineer's health became worse he was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge but had only just decided to cancel a skiing holiday planned for the following day when he died on December 19 last year.


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The inquest heard the Dutch firm, Intec Marine and Offshore, which was employing Mr Bartell through a Glasgow-based agency, had not received any reports from workers on the ship about poor ventilation.

But Mr Bartell told doctors treating him his concerns were so great he was considering not returning to work on the ship after the Christmas break, it was said.

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Dr Meryl Griffiths, consultant pathologist at Addenbrooke's, who carried out a post mortem on Mr Bartell's body, told the hearing the bacterial pneumonia he had contracted would not have been fatal if his lungs had not been fatally weakened by exposure to the fumes.

Cambridgeshire Coroner David Morris recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mr Bartell.

Mr Bartell's daughter, Aimee Bartell, said although her father had laboured breathing no-one was unduly concerned by his health and they had only just considered cancelling his trip to Poland when they were called back to the hospital after his health deteriorated rapidly.

After the hearing, the 27-year-old paid tribute to her father, saying: “He was a brilliant dad who liked to spend his time in the pub.

“He was always making a joke - you could never tell when he was being serious. And although he enjoyed working away he was always there for us.

“When we left him in the hospital he was distressed because he was finding it difficult to breath but he was in good spirits and he was sitting up and talking to us. He didn't expect to die - he was grumbling about being stuck in the hospital.

“When we got the call from the hospital I didn't believe it at first - it is difficult to put it in words, we were in shock and disbelief.”

Ms Bartell said the family felt no anger towards the firm which employed her father in Holland and said until they had all the information surrounding Mr Bartell's death they would not consider any possible legal action against the company.

Karl Bartell, who was expecting to visit his father in hospital the next day, said he would remember his father as a “strong” figure. After the inquest he said: “He was always there for us. Despite our parents divorcing 15 years ago we are a very close family. I will always remember him as a strong person who was always looking to better himself.”

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