Family of mesothelioma victim appeals to former colleagues in fight for justice

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Family of mesothelioma victim appeals to former colleagues in fight for justice

2nd April 2013

The family of a Newmarket man who died from cancer after he was exposed to asbestos through his work are appealing to his former colleagues to come forward as they continue his fight for justice.

After he was diagnosed with the asbestos-related lung cancer mesothelioma in October 2012, Gerry Blinston, formerly of Walsham-le-Willows, began a legal fight against his former employers, Caravans International Ltd, who he held responsible for his illness by exposing him to deadly asbestos fibres more than 40 years ago.

Sadly, Mr Blinston died in March 2013 at the age of 75. Now his widow, Angela, 68 and daughter, Marie Denny, 47, are continuing his fight for justice and hoping former colleagues will come forward and confirm that he was exposed to asbestos during his employment at the firm from 1963 up until the company folded in 1982.

“In April 2012, Gerry began suffering with a persistent cough and feeling generally unwell,” said Mrs Blinston “By August it was clear there was something wrong with his health and after visiting his GP he was admitted to hospital where he had an operation to drain more than four litres of fluid from his lungs.

“After Gerry was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October last year his health really began to deteriorate,” added Mrs Blinston. “Although we were fortunate we were able to look after him at home, it was obvious how much pain he was in and despite four bouts of chemotherapy he sadly succumbed to his illness last month.”

Mrs Blinston said her husband was exposed to asbestos at work throughout the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. “In 1963, Gerry started working for a company known as Sprite Caravans which employed about 200 people at The Oaks, Fordham Road in Newmarket,” she said. “Shortly after he joined, the firm merged with the Eccles caravan company and became known as Caravans International Ltd.

“Although Gerry was a paint sprayer and mostly worked in the spray booths, he also worked on the assembly lines building the caravans,” said Mrs Blinston. “The Fordham Road site had two assembly lines, one fast and one slow. Gerry mostly worked on the fast line making ‘Sprite’ small vans as well as the ‘Musketeer’ and ‘Alpine’ larger vans. Each caravan was hand built from a wooden frame and fitted with insulation which was sandwiched between the frame and the aluminium outer panelling.”

Mrs Blinston’s daughter, Marie Denny, of Bury St. Edmonds, said as part of the process, asbestolux boards would be fitted around the on-board stoves in some of the caravans. “The boards were pre-cut to rough sizes in the on-site saw mill and then stacked in racks alongside the production line,” said Mrs Denny. “Even though the cutting process alone produced a huge amount of asbestos dust there was never any kind of extraction system or ventilation to clear the air.

“The asbestolux boards were taken into the caravans and cut and trimmed to size using a hand saw and file before being drilled and screwed into place,” added Mrs Denny. “After he and his colleagues were done fitting the boards, any resulting dust and scrap asbestos was swept up before work began on the next caravan in line.”

Despite the fact that Mr Blinston and his colleagues handled asbestolux boards and were exposed to asbestos dust every day, astonishingly, no-one ever warned them about the dangers of working with asbestos.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and extremely painful terminal lung cancer that is only ever caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers can take anywhere between 20 and 60 years to develop following exposure. Shortly after Mr Blinston was diagnosed with mesothelioma he got in touch with Andrew James, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, to try and prove that his former employers were responsible for his illness.

“There have been a number of claims against Caravans International Ltd for former employees suffering from asbestos-related diseases,” said Mr James. “The problem we now face is locating people who knew and worked alongside Gerry throughout his time at the company.

“Gerry’s family are devastated by their loss,” he added, “and in order to help secure him the justice he deserved, we now need information from his former colleagues who can verify his working conditions at Caravans International Ltd and confirm that he was exposed to asbestos during his employment there.”

Can you help? If you knew or can remember working alongside Gerry Blinston between 1963 and 1982 at The Oaks, Fordham Road in Newmarket, or you are suffering from an asbestos-related disease that you believe may have been caused by exposure during your employment at Caravans International Ltd and think you can help in any way, please call Andrew James on 0844 893 6702 or e-mail