Cause of Edinburgh Legionnaires outbreak a mystery

Legionella Pneumophila, the bacteria which led to four deaths in the capital three years ago. Picture: Contributed

Legionella Pneumophila, the bacteria which led to four deaths in the capital three years ago. Picture: Contributed

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THE Crown Office has ruled that it has “proved impossible” to identify the source of the Legionella outbreak which resulted in the death of four people in Edinburgh in 2012.

No decision has yet been made on whether or not to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry amid growing demands from victims families.

The families affected want answers as to what caused such suffering across the city

Elaine Russell, a partner at Irwin Mitchell

As a result of the investigation Crown Counsel has concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to prosecute any person or organisation for the deaths.

However, a number of reports were submitted to the Crown Office for breaches of Health and Safety regulations and a number of companies are to be prosecuted on indictment in relation to these breaches.

The partner of the first victim of the outbreak, Robert “Bert” Air, 56, has told how “hurt and disappointed” she is at the ­outcome of the three-year ­investigation following a meeting with the Crown Office ­yesterday.

Catherine McDonald said: “I am hurt, angry and disappointed at the outcome of the ­meeting today – I simply cannot express the frustration that I feel.

“We have waited so long to reach this point but I don’t feel we have been provided with any answers as to what happened. I still want to know why Bert died.”

Ms McDonald has joined with other families in demanding a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the matter.

Bert Air passed away after contracting the illness while working at a building site in Gorgie Road.

The father-of-two had been rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with suspected pneumonia before the true extent of the legionnaires’ crisis was known.

Three men and one woman, aged between 47 and 65, died during the outbreak, which also saw 92 people infected with the ­disease.

Hundreds more became ill after breathing in the bacteria.

It is believed to have started in the Gorgie area of the capital, and investigations centred on two firms – the North British Distillery and pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith.

Both were served with improvement notices in relation to cooling towers, which can be a source of the legionella bacteria.

Lawyers for the families of those affected by the Legionnaire’s outbreak say a Fatal ­Accident Inquiry is “crucial” after the Crown Office admitted that three years on it still did not know what had caused the ­outbreak.

Elaine Russell, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Three years ago four people lost their lives and almost 100 suffered from Legionnaires ’ disease, yet the authorities are no closer to knowing what the source of the illness was.

“The families affected want answers as to what caused such suffering across the city and we now believe that a Fatal Accident Inquiry is crucial in determining once and for all what happened back in 2012.”

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