E-coli identified at Egypt hotel where Burnley couple died
Travel operator Thomas Cook commissioned an independent hygiene specialist and air quality specialist to conduct a series of tests at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt.
These tests covered food, water and air and included tests on the swimming pool, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels, air conditioning units, and a thorough audit of food storage, preparation, presentation and equipment.
The tests were carried out across the hotel after specialists were granted access by the Steigenberger Aqua Magic.
However, the specialists were unable to access the Cooper’s hotel room, which has remained under the control of the Egyptian authorities due to their ongoing investigation.
The results of the tests carried out by independent experts showed that:
- The examination of air and water quality came back clear. There was no evidence of carbon monoxide and there were normal carbon dioxide levels in the vicinity of the room.
- The tests on the swimming pools came back and showed normal levels of chlorine.
- The tests on the food and hygiene standards identified a high level of e-coli and staphylococcus bacteria.
- The tests did not identify the presence of shigella, listeria or salmonella.
The preliminary results have been reviewed by an independent expert, Doctor Vanya Gant, the Consultant and Divisional Clinical Director in Microbiology and Infection, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: "We have shared these findings with the Cooper family, the Egyptian authorities and the Deutsche Hospitality group which has a franchise agreement with the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel.
"It is clear from these results that something went wrong in August at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada and that standards fell below what we expect from our hotel partners.
"This is also supported by a review that we have conducted of our customer satisfaction scores, which fell sharply during this month.
"It is likely that the presence of e-coli and staphylococcus would explain the raised level of illness reported among guests at the hotel during this time, supporting Thomas Cook’s decision to remove our 300 customers.
"However, neither our independent specialists nor Doctor Vanya Gant believe that these results shed any light on the still unexplained cause of death of Mr and Mrs Cooper.
"We await the results of the autopsies being conducted by the Egyptian authorities."
The travel company has now taken the decision to roll out a programme of specialist hygiene assessments to all hotels which experience a higher than average reported level of sickness.
The spokesman added: "In addition, we are putting together a compensation package for all customers staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada during August who have told us that they were ill.
"We take all reports of sickness seriously and we are very sorry for any customers whose holidays have been spoiled by illness.
"We have already put in place a dedicated team to prioritise all complaints from this hotel.
"The Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel remains on stop sale to Thomas Cook customers until further notice.
Thomas Cook Chief Executive, Peter Fankhauser, said that everyone at the firm was deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of the Coopers and he described Susan, who had worked at the Burnley branch of the company as a "long standing and much loved colleague of ours."
The couple were holidaying with their daughter, Kelly Ormerod and her three children when the tragedy happened.
On the night before they died they reported a strange smell in their hotel room which Kelly said they tried to eliminate by spraying perfume.
Mr Fankhauser said: “We continue to await the results of the investigation being conducted by the Egyptian authorities and are working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure we prioritise the very best interests of the Cooper family.
"However, the tests that Thomas Cook commissioned and announced today show that hygiene at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel during the month of August did not meet the standards we expect.
"I am very sorry for all our customers who fell ill while on a Thomas Cook holiday at this hotel.
“These results, while not establishing the cause of the tragic deaths of John and Susan Cooper, have prompted us to commit further resource to tackle hygiene standards in those hotels where we identify a higher than average level of sickness.
“At any one time, Thomas Cook has more than 500,000 people holidaying with us somewhere in the world.
"We will continue to do all that we can to keep them safe and well on what should be the happiest weeks of their year.”