A FORENSICS expert has accused holiday giant Thomas Cook of causing chlorine gassing and burns to his daughter as a result of poor pool maintenance.
Dr John Wheeler, whose PhD is in chemistry, says chlorine was added directly to the paddling pool and has provided video he says proves it.
Dr Wheeler’s daughter, Isabelle, six, suffered burns to her feet, hands and knees at the Pefkos Beach Hotel, Rhodes.
Another family staying at the same hotel have claimed their child also suffered chlorine burns as a result of playing in the paddling pool.
Dr Wheeler, his wife, Francine, and their children traveled from their home in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire, to Rhodes on 20th July.
45-year-old Francine says that after a few days Isabelle began “coughing violently” and developed painful blisters.
After failing to get a satisfactory response from the travel company, Francine took to social media to complain.
She shared images of Isabelle’s hands and feet red raw and covered in scabs with the caption: “So, with what I believe is sufficient time to allow Thomas Cook to commence their investigations, I have decided to share a video in the photos below of the hotel worker throwing chemicals (likely to be calcium hypochlorite) into one of the pools.”
“Isabelle was crying out after a coughing fit and her distress can be heard clearly in the video which was taken 2 days after we had reported the incident.”
“This is my daughter, she is 6 years old. We took a family holiday to Rhodes. Everyday she wanted to play in the paddling pool and we had no idea it was making her ill. Below is photographic evidence of chlorine burns on Isabelle’s knees, hands and feet. Unfortunately we didn’t realise this at the time, we assumed that was caused by kneeling in the pool.”
“We also thought that her constant tiredness was caused by the heat. Nobody is talking to us despite the fact that we’ve submitted a comprehensive report with photographic and medical evidence. Not even a query to check that she is okay.”
A video also shared by Francine shows a hotel employee dumping a white powder directly into the water as Isabelle can be heard screaming in pain in the background.
Dr Wheeler, Associate Dean of the school of Law, Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University, sent a statement to Thomas Cook, stating: “It was observed that, each evening at around 7pm, an operative would cast scoopfuls of chemicals, most likely to be Calcium Hypochlorite, directly into the water of each pool.
“It would be more normal practice to introduce these chemicals through the filtration and pump system for the pools to avoid potential contact with public areas. Treating the ‘small’ pool by adding this material directly is especially inappropriate and led to the injuries described above and herein.”
He added: “The chemicals were observed to sink through the water, which was only 40cm deep, and sit on the bottom of the pool without dissolving or dispersing. This was still present the following morning when children entered the pool, who then stood, kneeled and crawled directly on the corrosive chemicals thus causing the burns and pain experienced.
“In addition, the dissolution of the chemicals brought about by the children stirring up the water also resulted in the release of chlorine gas that was then breathed in directly by the same children, and led to the respiratory issues.”
Lisa Kay, a nurser from Burnley, Lancashire, also claims her 5-year-old daughter Hollie suffered burns from the same pool.
In a Facebook post, she shared images of Hollie’s mottled legs and blistered feet which she says began to bleed.
Social media users reacted with horror to Francine and Lisa’s posts.
Michelle Studd added: “Shocking to see them just throwing chlorine in and not testing water.”
And Melanie Hughes replied: “This has deeply upset me for you all. Those burns are horrendous and your baby’s screams display this. I’m sure you will fight on and get justice for your baby girl. Shameful of the holiday providers to brush you off – absolutely disgusting. Love to you all.”
Speaking today, Francine said: “The only reason this came to light is because my husband is a Doctor of Chemistry and observed the methodology used to clean the pool.
“As you might imagine it has been an horrendous ordeal for my daughter and our family.”
Thomas Cook responded to Francine and they were unable to answer her queries at this moment.
Their message said: “Due to the legalities involved I am unable to tell you any of this information. I can only tell you that the complaint is currently in the queue to be picked up by the Customer Incident team, who will be in touch in due course.”
A medical report conducted at Silverdale Village surgery in Newcastle by Dr A S Khan on August 4 confirms”reaction to chlorine” as the diagnosis for Isabelle’s injuries.
A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry for the concern this must have caused the Wheeler family and our team are contacting them so that we can look into what happened further.”
“Our customers’ safety is always our first priority and we take all reports of injury very seriously.
“Initial tests carried out by the Pefkos Beach Hotel showed normal water levels but as a precautionary measure we requested that the pool be emptied and deep cleaned.”