Former fireman wins five-figure payout for exposure to asbestos
A FIREMAN who served on a Humber fireboat has received a five-figure payout after contracting an asbestos-related disease.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service agreed an out-of-court settlement with the former Hull fireman, now aged 84.
It followed a four-year battle for compensation after man was struck down by a lung condition, caused by exposure to the hazardous material.
The pensioner, who has asked not to be named, has oxygen tanks, designed to help him breathe, in almost every room of his west Hull home.
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He said: "I was employed by Hull Fire Brigade from 1951 to 1969, based at Clough Road fire station, but I spent a lot of time on the Clara Stark, a fireboat in the Humber. Asbestos used to crumble off the pipework."
Before the demise of the fishing industry, with the Cod Wars in the 1960s, a fireboat was used to tackle blazes on trawlers and other ships at the busy docks.
Firefighters would also regularly be called to blazes at garages filled with asbestos, he said. "Our chief fighter even got us a scaled-down engine, which we called the Cottingham Flyer, that we used to get round the various tenfoots to fight the fires," he said.
Doctors have told him his condition, pleural essusion – thickening of the lungs lining – is incurable but not fatal.
However, it drastically reduces his quality of life and he has constant trouble breathing.
He said: "I am glad I have received this money. I hope it will encourage others who have suffered to come forward and get what they are entitled to.
"Never in a million years did I think I would get this condition, but no one does at the time.
"As a fireman, I did not see the dangers of asbestos."
Howard Bonnett, of York-based Corrie's Solicitors, represented the claimant.
He said: "A lot of paperwork showed people were aware of how dangerous asbestos was. Indeed, it was known to be dangerous from as early as 1900.
"Hull Fire Brigade, which became Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, should, in my opinion, have been aware and taken steps to protect workers.
"We were not talking about a back- street Hull factory, for example, which may have been forgiven for not knowing about the dangers of asbestos."
Mr Bonnett said he was pleased Humberside Fire and Rescue had paid-out but was frustrated that it had taken so long.
He said: "Their insurers fought us tooth and nail for four years. It could and should have been dealt with more quickly.
"The money will help improve, to some extent, my client's quality of life.
"He lives with his disabled wife and he is her carer, so this money will be welcomed."