Holidaymakers evacuated from an Egyptian hotel where a British couple mysteriously died said today that dozens fell ill but no-one knows why – as a lawyer said the tragedy ‘smacks of a cover-up.’ British holidaymakers have been flown home early from the Egyptian hotel.
John Cooper, 69, died before his daughter’s eyes in the five-star Aqua Magic hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada on Tuesday before his wife Susan, 63, was rushed to the hospital where she also died.
Travel Agent Thomas Cook evacuated 300 guests from the hotel amid “raised levels of illness” as the hotel dismissed claims of food poisoning as “rash speculation”.
At 3.30am today around 100 furious British guests landed at Manchester Airport and complained of vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
One tourist claims she was told by a Thomas Cook rep that the deaths were caused by “carbon monoxide coming through the air vent.”
But the company says it has found no evidence for this and Egypt’s public prosecutor has ruled out “poisonous or harmful gases” after engineers checked the ‘aircon and filters in every room’ and declared everything was safe.
Evacuated holidaymaker Dale Watson, 38, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said: ‘Five of us fell ill, we thought it was food poisoning, but no one really knows the truth.
“Walking through the hotel you would hear people talking about having had stomach cramps and diarrhea”.
“And two days ago we found certain things had been taken off the menu for testing. “
“It’s got to be something at the hotel, but who knows, there have been so many rumors flying around. I’m still not feeling 100 percent today.”
He added,”When we were told about the couple dying it was just surreal, everyone, including the staff, was in shock.”
‘They gathered everyone together in a room and told us what had happened and said we could fly home tonight and we would be given a full refund. The atmosphere was really weird.’
Utilities company worker Paul, 46, said he’d never experienced anything like it after he fell ill at the start of his second week at the hotel.
“I’ve had an upset tummy when I’ve been away before, but nothing like this,”he said.
“I hardly had a drink, I ate nothing for two days. I was projectile vomiting. In the end, we just wanted to get out of there.”
Victoria Cocklin, 31, of Sunderland, said: ‘My three-year-old son Harry has been poorly, he has been sick all over the place. He has been suffering from sickness and diarrhea.
“We were told by one of the Thomas Cook reps that the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide coming through the air vent.
“First of all, we were told it was a heart attack. We are getting a coach all the way back to Newcastle.”
“We were only out there for four days, we had a two-week holiday booked.”
Speculations Over the Death: Is It Carbon Monoxide or Food Poisoning?
Supporting the theory that the deaths are suspicious, holidaymaker Jack Morgan said,”No information has been given to us, but we were actually out there I can tell you this isn’t going to end well.”
It comes as a lawyer said that the Egyptian government may be covering up the deaths to protect the country’s tourism industry which has been under pressure since the 2011 Arab Spring brought security threats and civil unrest.
In a statement titled “normal death of an English old man and his wife,” the local Egyptian governor insisted the deaths were due to “respiratory failure” and were “not criminal.”
But, amid speculation the couple were killed by carbon monoxide or food poisoning, their shattered daughter Kelly Ormerod said,”I believe something suspicious has gone on.”
Travel claims expert Nick Harris of Simpson said,”It smacks of a cover-up. I think it could be either carbon monoxide poisoning, food poisoning or water poisoning.”
“I”m speculating but we’re dealing with a hotel with past form over hygiene complaints and it seems officials are doing all they can to put the blame elsewhere.”
“Can you imagine if there was criminality involved?”
Thomas Cook is investigating the deaths and says it “does not rule anything in or out.” It said it has found no evidence for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mr. Harris said,”I was alarmed by how quickly Thomas Cook came out and said they had no evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
“If it does turn out to be that, it would be crippling for the travel agent after two children died of carbon monoxide while on holiday with the company in 2006.”
The air conditioning system at the hotel Egypt is sound, Egypt’s public prosecutor said on Saturday, citing a report by engineering experts.
A statement said that engineers assigned to check the room where the deceased couple had been staying concluded that “all equipment was sound and that there was no leakage or emission of any poisonous or harmful gases.”
“All equipment was working properly and had no faults,” it added.
Mr. Harris said he laments a change in the law in April which makes it harder for tourists to make claims against tour companies after they fall ill, saying the tougher laws ‘threaten health and safety.”
‘The courts favor the travel companies and immediately assume claims are spurious,’ he said.
Guests said that they have been “on their knees and sick as pigs’ due to food poisoning,” which the hotel denies.
One man from Birmingham, who did not want to be named, said that his 16-year-old daughter is still “on her knees with food poisoning”after falling ill at the Aqua Magic last week.
He shared an image of what he claimed was some raw chicken she was served.
He said,”She was on holiday with her boyfriend and three other families and many of them became ill.”
“We flew her home and she’s been extremely ill ever since – her mum’s been crying and so worried about her. The Queen Elizabeth hospital confirmed it was food poisoning.”
Mr. Harris, who has 20 live cases ongoing against the Aqua Magic hotel since April, added: ‘I’ve taken several cases of customers returning from the same hotel and have two clients struck down with salmonella.’
The Aqua Magic hotel has denied that anyone is ill and dismissed the idea of food poisoning as ‘rash speculation’.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism insisted there was no ‘criminal activity’ in either death and released a statement saying Mr. Cooper died of ‘sudden cardiac arrest and respiratory failure’ and his wife died of ‘circulatory collapse and respiratory failure.’
Mr. Harris said his clients’ claims surrounded ‘the food, the temperatures of the food, things like that. It seems to be the same complaints coming back time and time again.’
Health and safety expert Allen Wilson said that many tour companies had started using locals to manage health and safety standards.
He said this meant the Aqua Magic Hotel was ‘an accident waiting to happen.’
Thomas Cook said in a statement, “We are aware that customers have come forward to say they have experienced illness while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt.”
“We are very sorry for those customers whose holidays have been spoiled.”
“We take all illness very seriously and we will continue to investigate any outstanding cases.”
The Aqua Magic hotel is owned by Deutsche Hospitality, a German company with dozens of luxury hotels across the globe.
TripAdvisor and social media reviews show the Aqua Magic has received numerous complaints over food poisoning and poor general hygiene in the past – but Thomas Cook said its review of the hotel in July showed nothing untoward.
As investigations into the double deaths continue, Thomas Cook, says it has not found any evidence of carbon monoxide or food poisoning but is evacuating 301 holidaymakers from the hotel amid “raised levels of illness.”
At least 40 hotel guests have reported being ill, with some saying they are “on their knees and sick as pigs.”
The Cooper family, from Burnley, Lancashire, were on a “trip of a lifetime”with Mrs. Ormerod’s three children when the tragedy struck on Tuesday.
Mrs. Ormerod said in a telephone interview on Friday,”I entered their room in the morning and they were both extremely ill.”
The Egyptian Authorities Claim the Death is of Natural Causes
“Doctors came to the room and they couldn’t save dad – they just couldn’t help and he died before my eyes.”
“I got an ambulance with mum to hospital and while she was in the hospital she died.”
But Mrs. Ormerod has ordered a second autopsy. She added,”I now have to keep strong for the children’s sake and have to get out of this country and get back to the UK.
“I am at the beck and call of the authorities and they will give me no indication of when I can leave the country.”
Thomas Cook said it ‘doesn’t rule anything in or out’ as investigations continue.
The travel agent and the Aqua Magic Hotel are in conflict over the situation: Thomas Cook admits a ‘raised level of illness’ – but the hotel, which has received numerous hygiene complaints in the past, claims no-one else is ill.
Egypt, which relies heavily on tourism, has seen visitor numbers plummet by 30 percent since the 2011 Arab Spring brought security threats and civil unrest.
Last year, the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada was thrown into chaos when a knifeman killed two German women and injured four tourists on the beach.
Mrs. Cooper was a long-serving Thomas Cook employee at its branch in Burnley where her husband ran his own building company.
In a statement to Lancashire-based radio station 2BR, Mrs. Ormerod said this morning: ‘As a family, we are devastated. Mum and Dad meant the world to me and the children, and we are in utter shock over what has happened and what is happening.
“Prior to going on holiday, Mum and Dad were fit and healthy. They had no health problems at all.”
“What I want is to clear up some of what is being reported. We have no cause of death, a post-mortem is under way.”
“Dad never went to the hospital – he died in the hotel room in front of me. I went to the hospital in the ambulance with Mum, where she passed away.”
“My focus is on getting my children home. All we want is answers about what has happened and a cause of death.”
“I’d also like to thank people at home for their messages of love and support during this horrendous ordeal.”
Mrs. Ormerod now wants to know how her parents died after the head of Hurghada Hospital and a local police official both on Wednesday said that the pair died of natural causes – but speculation mounts over food poisoning fears.