UNAWARENESS:

Families Can Suffer a Lifetime of Misery

Dedicated to Mary (Molly) Maher

(1937 – 2020)

 

Molly dedicated her life to campaigning for improved H&S Standards both in the UK and Europe. She particularly focused on the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning through her charity, Consumer Safety International, which was founded in 1992 and was totally unfunded. I was privileged to serve Molly in this field; working on campaigns and attending meetings in the UK and Europe over the last decade. Molly was not just a good friend to me, but my mentor. And save for my wife, she was my best friend who was caring, loving and a completely unselfish person, usually, putting others welfare before her own. - Stephen Hadley

See also: Molly Maher Obituary by Ray Kemp in The Guardian 17th August 2020

Introduction by Ray Kemp

 

Over twenty-five years ago I was the Sussex-based reporter for Television South and had the sad job of meeting Molly Maher and her family shortly after their son had been killed and their daughter, Sheree, paralysed by carbon monoxide (CO) from a gas water heater in a Tenerife holiday flat. The heater was only supposed to feed a kitchen sink but had been linked to feed the bath. Hundreds of thousands of such appliances were in Mediterranean resorts. Over the next few years I covered stories involving Molly’s efforts to stop such accidents. At first those in authority in this country and Europe failed to respond but gradually MP’s, Peers and Euro-Politicians began to take notice.

Molly's Story

As journalist, Ray Kemp, says above, my husband Peter and I suffered a terrible tragedy in 1985 when our 26 year old son Gary was killed and our 21 year old daughter Sheree was severely damaged after being poisoned by fumes from a gas water heater which leaked deadly carbon monoxide (CO) in their Tenerife holiday apartment. Sheree was in a coma for 4 months and is still confined to a wheelchair but her strength is amazing. Sheree and my other lovely daughter Lindy, were always 100% supportive of our “gas” efforts. Investigations going back for more than 20 years revealed many similar disasters. After 5 years of campaigning for safer holidays our family were devastated when my husband Peter died in 1990. I then met Nigel Griffiths MP, then Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister, and we set up Consumer Safety International (CSI) in 1992, together with the relatives of other CO victims. Nigel’s support for over 20 years has been great. He advised CSI to be formed as a non-party charity with support across both Houses of Parliament. It included eminent safety advisors with much appreciated volunteers. CSI worked to achieve improvements by educating the public and advising victims of holiday tragedies.

Tenerife

 

In 1994 the European Commission funded CSI for a 1-year Holiday Dangers Awareness leaflet project and media gave good coverage with a press conference. Mary and Don Neal, whose daughter Katie tragically died of carbon monoxide in Majorca, were supporters of CSI. Through their efforts, in 1997 Airtours Holidays plc unconditionally sponsored us for 2 years. We used their funding for multi-issues including further promotion of a proposed EC Directive on Safe Installation and Maintenance of Gas Appliances; first submitted to the Commission in 1992. A proposed EC Directive on Fire Safety in place of Recommendations. We Commissioned Arup Fire, part of Ove Arup, to prepare a Consultation Document for an EU Hotels and Apartments Fire Safety Directive; debated in Brussels on the 23rd March 1999. Visits, Investigations and Reports into Safety Standards for Gas, Swimming pools, Balconies, Electrics, Fire Safety and Play areas. The Reports were widely distributed by my brilliant niece, Elaine.

Major British Tour Operators and others finally decided on a worldwide boycott on all holiday accommodation using individual gas water heaters, because the lack of properly trained gas operatives could not be resolved. CSI Trustees then semi-retired and sadly the lovely Mary Neal died in 2005. Every year millions of holidaymakers will be leaving home for holidays abroad. Many will return badly injured. Some will not come back at all. Things have improved but there is still a long way to go.