A LANDMARK court hearing to examine the risks posed by toxic fumes inside aircraft cabins will be heard in Bournemouth in April.
A date has finally been set for a full inquest into the death of British Airways pilot Richard Westgate.
The hearing will take place over two weeks in April at Bournemouth Town Hall and will be one of the longest and most detailed inquests ever heard in the county.
Mr Westgate, 43, died while undergoing treatment for Aerotoxic Syndrome in The Netherlands in 2012. It has taken more than four years to assemble the evidence and experts needed to establish what happened to him.
Legal experts representing the aviation industry, British Airways and the family will travel from across the globe to give evidence.
Mr Westgate lived in Marlborough in Wiltshire but his parents live in Dorset so the inquest is being held in Bournemouth.
Current Dorset Coroner Sheriff Payne took the unusual step of warning the public they are at risk of death from toxic fumes inside aircraft cabins after making initial inquiries into Mr Westgate’s death.
He wrote to British Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority and said: “In my opinion urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe your organisation has the power to take such action.”
And Mr Payne told the Daily Echo: “I have made a report before the full inquest because there is a potential risk now which needs to be looked at with some urgency.
“In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”
His intervention was the first official recognition of so-called Aerotoxic Syndrome, believed to be linked to memory loss, tremors, lethargy and death.
It is suggested that frequent fliers, particularly cabin crew, are most at risk but Mr Payne said that if a pilot’s judgement is altered it puts every person on the plane at risk.
Mr Payne is due to retire from his role next month so the full inquest will be heard by a coroner from a different area, Dr Simon Fox QC.
Mr Westgate’s parents, Judy and Peter, have claimed airlines and regulators have failed to act for many years, despite evidence of poisoning.
Mrs Westgate said: “Richard would complain about the aircraft being smelly. He would go away and come back from trips feeling worse. It is hard not to believe there has been some sort of cover-up.”
The inquest will be heard from April 6-13.