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  1. ITV Report

Charity launched to improve carbon monoxide awareness

Travel company, Thomas Cook, has launched a new charity, aimed at improving the safety of holidaymakers travelling abroad, by funding research and raising awareness of travel risks, with a particular focus on the dangers of carbon monoxide.

The Safer Tourism Foundation was launched at a parliamentary event, hosted by Wakefield MP, Mary Creagh, as part of the start of Carbon Monoxide awareness week.

The Shepherd children, Christi and Bobby, died following a carbon monoxide leak while on holiday in Corfu Credit: ITV News

The charity was born out of the deaths of two young children, Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning whilst on holiday with Thomas Cook nine years ago.

Working with Sharon Wood, the mother of Christi and Bobby, the Foundation will start by funding the first ever Europe-wide research and public health awareness campaign into carbon monoxide. The Foundation has initial funding of £1 million and will look to partner with academic institutions and the wider industry including ABTA, the Travel Association.

The deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd represent the darkest hour in the history of Thomas Cook. We are grateful to be working with Sharon Wood to launch the Safer Tourism Foundation. By funding detailed research into carbon monoxide and campaigning for legislative change in the UK and Europe, the Foundation aims to effect real change. I am personally deeply committed to making this a success and hope that the work of the Foundation will honour the memories of Christi and Bobby by having a positive impact on the lives of all holidaymakers.

– Peter Fankhauser - Thomas Cook CEO

Initial research conducted for the Foundation by YouGov, surveying more than 12,000 Europeans, reveals that carbon monoxide poisoning has touched the lives of more than one in ten Europeans.

Yet despite the risks, public awareness and knowledge remains low, with over a third of people surveyed incorrectly stating that carbon monoxide could be detected by our human senses.

Corcyra Beach Hotel in Corfu, where Bobby and Christi Shepherd died while on holiday with their parents in October 2006. Credit: Press Association

More than half of respondents (56%) agreed there should be more information available about the risks of The Foundation’s first objective will be to commission academic research to create a Europe-wide picture of the scale of the problem. This will provide an important foundation for the campaign for legislative change.

The way in which one of the largest and most respected tour operators has treated Christi and Bobby’s family is well documented, hard to forgive and impossible to forget. With the Safer Tourism Foundation, Thomas Cook have offered a viable initiative to raise the profile of carbon monoxide and improve carbon monoxide safety both in the UK and abroad.

I sincerely believe that after almost a decade a collaborative approach is the best way forward. After all, it is all we ever asked for that lessons be learned from our tragedy so that lives can be saved in the future. I have high expectations of this Foundation and look forward to being involved with the work it will do. I hope it will be well received and supported because, on a personal level, this charity is born of my children's deaths - it's Christi and Bobby’s legacy so it really, truly matters to me.

– Sharon Wood
The boiler from the hotel room in Corfu where Christianne and Bobby Shepherd were found dead after carbon monoxide poisoning. Credit: Press Association

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week is an opportunity to take stock of the progress that has been made in raising awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide in the years since Christi and Bobby's tragic deaths. Wakefield coroner David Hinchliff was clear that new laws are needed at UK and EU level to protect families on holiday, and that the medical profession needs to be more systematic in recognising carbon monoxide poisoning. Thomas Cook promised the children's parents they would lead the call from the industry to improve holiday safety, so this conference will be an important milestone for the UK travel industry.

– Mary Creagh MP