THE family of a man who claim he died after contracting Legionnaires disease at a Bulgarian hotel have launched a legal action against tour operator Jet2.
John Cowan, 43, died in June this year after falling ill at the three-star Hotel Kalofer in the country’s Sunny Beach resort.
His devastated family said they have not had an explanation for his death from Jet2 and have now launched a civil claim for damages.
John Cowan, 43, pictured, died after contracting Legionnaires disease while on holiday in Bulgaria. His family want to sue Jet2 for damages following his death on June 19, one week after he returned from the Hotel Kalofer in Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach resort
Mr Cowan, of Hamilton, Lanarkshire, first became ill while on holiday and continued to suffer the effects of the virus until he died on June 19 – one week after returning home.
The causes of death formally listed on the hotelier’s death certificate are ‘septic shock’ and ‘Legionella Pneumonia’.
It is also claimed four other people suffered ill health following a stay at the hotel.
Little is known about the cause of the outbreak but it’s understood the hotel’s air conditioning system has been examined.
Mr Cowan’s heartbroken brother Barry, said: ‘We are all devastated.
‘Neither Jet2 nor the hotel have helped us at all – it’s like they’re just trying to hush it all up rather than help a bereaved family.
‘Jet2 told us they had not tested the aircraft my brother was on and they don’t think this is the source of the injury.
‘We know of two other UK families affected by this who also stayed in the same hotel.
‘Apparently there were also two hotel staff members who became ill.’
Mr Cowan, pictured, felt unwell after returning from Bulgaria and spent almost a week in bed before going to see his GP who sent him to hospital. Soon it was discovered he had pneumonia on one lung. His kidneys later stopped working and he was put on dialysis. Medics then diagnosed him with Legioinnaires Disease. He died of a massive cardiac arrest
Mr Cowan’s mother, Marie, 63, described the tragic events that led to her son’s passing.
The retired care assistant from Hamilton said: ‘When John came home he was feeling unwell.
‘He was weak and his bones were aching.
‘He basically stayed in bed most of that week – it wasn’t until he started getting short of breath that we went to the GP.
‘As soon as the doctor saw John he realised he needed urgent attention and phoned an ambulance which took him to Wishaw General.’
Medics ran emergency tests and put Mr Cowan on a ventilator after discovering he had pneumonia in one lung.
However his kidneys stopped working and he was put on dialysis before it was confirmed he had Legionnaires Disease.
Mr Cowan was staying at the Hotel Kalofer on the Sunny Beach Resort in Bulgaria before he fell ill and died. Tour operators Jet 2 said independent tests did not find evidence of Legionnaires Disease at the hotel, although they are not taking bookings for the remainder of this summer or for summer 2020
Mrs Cowan added: ‘They had him treated by a medical team from Leicester but by that time he had pneumonia in the other lung as well.
‘John was going to be moved to the Golden Jubilee but before the transfer he had to undergo an operation to help him breathe.
‘However during surgery he went into cardiac arrest where he was unresponsive for 30 minutes.
‘John was eventually revived and taken to the Jubilee however on arrival specialists told us John had suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of the lack of oxygen so we gave permission to turn off the ventilator and give John a dignified passing.’
It is understood Public Health Scotland were made aware of the outbreak after being contacted by one of the medical team from Leicester.
They are also believed to have already made contact with the other victims of the Hotel Kalofer outbreak.
Barry Cowan added: ‘It was the hardest thing ever and I don’t think it’s something we’ll ever get over.
‘We just want answers – to know why this happened, to know it will never happen to anyone else and to know why the tour operator and the hotel have done nothing to help.
‘The travel insurers won’t even pay out to help us recover funeral costs – they said because John died of an illness and not an accident then it means John wasn’t covered.
‘It’s a joke. We’ve no option but to take legal action when all these companies push you around.’
Mark Gibson, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors and head of their foreign and travel team, said: ‘We are currently investigating a claim that a man died as a result of Legionnaires poisoning at a hotel in Bulgaria but as the case is at an early stage it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
A spokesman for Jet2 said: ‘Sadly, we can confirm that two customers recently passed away shortly after returning to the UK from holiday in Bulgaria.
‘We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to their families at this very difficult time, and we have been in constant contact to offer all the assistance and support that we can.
‘The health and safety of our customers is our absolute priority.
‘In response, and to support our investigation, two independent specialists were instructed to take samples from the hotel and a UKAS accredited laboratory conducted testing of the water samples for any contamination.
‘The results of all their tests were negative.
‘We will continue to assist the local authorities in their investigations as required.
‘Despite these results we have taken further precautionary measures, like other UK tour operators at the hotel.
‘We have transferred all customers and all bookings for this summer to other hotels, and we have also put a stop on sales to the affected hotel for Summer 19 and Summer 20.’