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Swansea father's death highlights perils of travel

Jul 1 2003

by Robin Turner, The Western Mail

 

AS FILM stars Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas flew into Palma, Majorca, on Sunday for a society wedding, arrangements were being made at the sun- drenched island's airport for a far more sombre occasion.

The body of maintenance engineer Garry Smith, 49, from the actress's home city Swansea, was waiting in a coffin to be flown to the UK.

The body was believed to have arrived at Heathrow last night and a post-mortem examination was due to be carried out.

The father-of-two's funeral is expected to be held at Swansea's St Peter's Church next week.

While food poisoning is suspected, the actual cause of death will be determined by the post-mortem and the results of blood tests.

Last year in Torroella, Barcelona, 900 people went down with severe food poisoning after eating a huge cake to celebrate the day of St John the Baptist.

Spanish health authorities found infected eggs were the problem and, at the time, they said eggs and related products, like mayonnaise, were particularly dangerous in the summer heat unless rigorous hygiene procedures were adopted.

The tragedy which struck the Smith family highlights the many dangers faced by travellers, particularly at this time of year, when many are preparing to go on holiday.

The travel sector has been hit by several setbacks. It suffered a huge blow after the September 11 attacks raised the spectre of terrorism. The Iraq war made things worse. Then came the deadly Sars virus, with global images of frightened air travellers in face masks, persuading many to cancel breaks in places like Hong Kong, Canada and mainland China.

But the lure of sea, sun and sand is strong and tens of thousands of holidaymakers strap themselves into jets every day heading for Britain's favourite destination, Spain, followed by France, Greece, the USA and Italy.

And the Foreign Office says that deaths from swimming-pool accidents, people falling from heights, road-traffic accidents and medical problems such as heart attacks are far more common than terrorist attacks or virulent bugs such as Sars.

In July 2000, 19-year-old Rebecca Watkins, of Briton Ferry, Neath Port Talbot, was enjoying herself in one of Ibiza's famous dance clubs.

On the second day of her holiday, she walked out of the packed club and forgot that traffic drove on the other side of the road to that in Britain. She looked left instead of right and was knocked down on a road so badly lit and prone to accidents it was dubbed "death highway".

The 1980s pop star Boy George had been at the club on the night and saw Rebecca's body lying in the roadway.

He later joined a campaign to get more lighting for the road, but just a year later, David Holloway, 17, of Buckley, North Wales, was hit by a bus on the same road.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said, "Check with your doctor to see if you need any vaccinations, anti-malarial treatment or anti-insect sprays before you travel.

"Get adequate insurance or - if you are travelling within the EU - an E111 form from the Post Office entitling you to free or low-cost medical treatment.

"The most common problems on journeys are accidents or illness, losses or thefts.

"If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a loss or theft, always report it to the local police and get a written report from them."

For the medically uninsured, a broken leg in Spain can cost £4,000 to set and plaster. In Bangkok, a back injury can cost up to £50,000 to treat and, in the US, any major illness can cost £150,000-plus to treat.

Travellers are urged to be honest about their medical histories when filling in travel insurance as any discrepancies can invalidate a claim.

 
 

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