The family of Mrs Claire Cook of Rednall, Birmingham has instructed travel law experts, Penningtons Manches, to pursue a claim against Balkan Holidays, following her husband’s death by drowning on 13 August 2014 while staying at the Royal Bay hotel in Bulgaria.
Mr Leslie Cook had been playing in the sea off the hotel beach with Mrs Cook’s three children when the family got into difficulties due to a dangerous rip tide.
Earlier that morning, Mrs Cook had deliberately checked the warning signs on the beach and noted that the safety flag was yellow, the colour indicating that the beach was safe for swimming.
Despite an obvious emergency, the two lifeguards did not take any action to help the family and eventually the three children were pulled out of the sea by other guests at the resort. In his efforts to save the children, Mr Cook lost consciousness and was eventually brought to shore on a lilo by other holidaymakers.
Mrs Cook initially attempted to resuscitate her husband before two medical staff from the hotel complex arrived on the scene. Within a couple of minutes, it was clear to Mrs Cook that they were hopelessly ill-equipped and also unsure as to what to do. Mrs Cook therefore recommenced the CPR with assistance from another guest, working as a team, using compression and mouth to mouth techniques.
During this time no assistance was given by hotel staff or the Balkan Holidays’ tour representatives. The children, who had also nearly drowned, were instead cared for by another family from Wales. Despite the extreme urgency of the situation, hotel staff also refused to call an ambulance for Mr Cook until they were provided with the family’s insurance papers.
Despite the beach location, the lifeguards and hotel medical staff did not have a defibrillator and Mr Cook tragically died on the beach in his wife’s arms. She then lay with him for two hours before other holidaymakers helped her to carry his body on a sun lounger off the beach.
Mrs Cook then endured another two hours before an ambulance arrived to transport her husband’s body to the local morgue. At the morgue, Mrs Cook noticed at least one other body in swimming trunks and she was later told that four people had died that day on that stretch of coastline.
Mark Lee, head of the travel law team at Penningtons Manches, said: “This is a truly shocking case which has robbed a man of his life and the family of a loving husband and stepfather. Although the rip tides were clearly very strong at that time of year, no warning was given to the family by the lifeguards, the hotel staff or the Balkan Holidays tour representatives to notify them of the danger.
“This was then compounded by the lifeguards’ inexplicable failure to respond to an obvious emergency and by the medical assistants’ inability to carry out simple resuscitation techniques. The tour operator, Balkan Holidays and its local suppliers were clearly in breach of their contractual obligations to the Cook family and we have now initiated a claim for damages on their behalf”.
Claire Cook also commented on the incident: ”We have all really struggled to come to terms with my husband’s tragic and unnecessary death. We were totally let down by the hotel staff, the lifeguards and tour representatives who left it to me to try to save my dying husband on the beach.
“Not only should the hotel have warned guests of the danger of rip tides but the life guards and medical staff should have had the skills and equipment to save people. The indifferent and callous approach of the people who had a duty of care to me and my family during this horrific experience was beyond belief.”