A BRITISH Airways co-pilot who believed he was being poisoned by contaminated cockpit air died as he tried to seek medical help abroad, an inquest heard.
Richard Westgate suffered from severe headaches, confusion, sight problems and insomnia before he died in December 2012 at the age of 43.
He moved to the Netherlands to seek treatment because UK doctors “did not believe” his symptoms were caused by toxic cabin air, the hearing was told.
His twin brother, Guy Westgate, told the Salisbury inquest that his brother had been in “excruciating pain” and was convinced he had “aerotoxic syndrome”.
He said that his brother, from Marlborough, Wiltshire, felt let down by doctors in Britain, including those from his employer BA, and went to Hilversum in Holland.
Mr Westgate said: “The specialists in Holland were the first group of specialists who gave him a light at the end of the tunnel that they believed in him. He went there to be cured.
“He would describe pain in his brain, he felt his head had been tin-opened and his brain had been sandpapered. It was the only way he could describe the severity of his pain.”
But the pilot’s family will not be able to find out whether contaminated cabin air played a role in the death.
This is because coroner Dr Simon Fox QC ruled at the start of the inquest that “exposure to organophosphate” would not be considered during the week-long hearing.
He said the inquest would look at whether Mr Westgate had died from an overdose of the insomnia drug pentobarbital and whether he had been suffering from myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Mr Westgate said: “We do not believe it was suicide. We were particularly surprised as we were planning to speak to him the following day.”
When asked by David Platt QC, representing BA, if a road traffic accident in August 2011 had led to his brother’s symptoms, Mr Westgate said his condition pre-dated the crash.
He said his brother, who had suffered whiplash, had used the crash as an acceptable way of getting signed off from work to claim on insurance.
He claimed he would not have been able to do this without a formal diagnosis of aerotoxic syndrome.
“Richard needed money to fund his treatment in Hilversum,” he said.
“Everyone realised if you asked a BA doctor to make an inconvenient conclusion of organophosphate poisoning, of aerotoxic syndrome, they would never agree to that.
“Everyone was trying to get Richard a convenient diagnosis. We were all trying to attach what symptoms we could (to the accident) to make it easy for Richard to start his loss of licence payout.”
Mr Westgate added that he had been unaware that his brother used a pseudonym of Richard West to seek treatment for depression at the Priory Clinic in Bristol.
The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) says aerotoxic syndrome is caused by cabin air coming directly from the aircraft engines, which causes exposure to engine oils and hydraulic fuels.
The air industry has argued there is no threat to passengers or crew.
Evidence will be heard later this week and next from medical experts over Mr Westgate’s state of mind and a verdict is due next Thursday.
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