TOUR operator Thomas Cook has set up a £1m new charity in the memory of two children from Yorkshire who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Greek villa.
Bobby and Christi Shepherd, aged six and seven, died when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler while on holiday in Corfu with their dad and his girlfriend in 2006.
Thomas Cook was found to have breached their duty of care of the two children during the inquest into their deaths, and West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchcliff ruled the youngsters had been unlawfully killed.
Now the company has set up the Safer Tourism Foundation, which will work with the children’s mother Sharon Wood on improving standards for holiday makers when they venture abroad.
Sitting on a panel with the holiday operator’s chief executive to officially launch the organisation at the start of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in the House of Commons, Ms Wood said she would never forget the role Thomas Cook played in her son and daughter’s deaths.
Yet she said she has to work with the company so that progress is made on such an important issue.
She said: “I find it hard to forgive, and impossible to forget, but I put my personal feelings to one side because I want to make a difference for the future and I sincerely believe that this collaborative approach is the best way to achieve this.
“This is Christi and Bobby’s legacy, so it really, truly and deeply matters to me.”
The children’s father Neil Shepherd also attended the meeting and sat in the front row, questioning the worth of new guidelines over the safety of gas boilers in private rented accommodation in the UK, when this accounts for just eight per cent of all the homes in Britain.
Mr Shepherd was found unconscious with his girlfriend, who he has since married, at the holiday villa in Corfu by a cleaner.
During the meeting chaired by the Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh attendees heard from accident and emergency consultant doctor Simon Clarke, who said far more needs to be done to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is known as a ‘great mimicker’ as its symptoms being so similar to a range of other illnesses.
The meeting also heard how carbon monoxide poisoning is still not included on the national curriculum in schools.
Both the children’s parents have been extremely critical of Thomas Cook’s relationship with the family since their children’s deaths, which the company’s Swiss chief executive Peter Fankhauser said he was aware of as he spoke publicly what they intend on doing to improve standards.
The travel company angered them again in May when they donated £1.5m of a £3m payout they got from the Greek hotel’s owners to Unicef, without consulting them. Money has since been given to charities of their choice.