Holiday nightmare goes on for couple

Chris and Kerry Ward
Chris and Kerry Ward

A WIGAN bridegroom is in legal deadlock with tour operators – two years after spending his wedding day on a hospital drip.

Holiday firm Thomson has rejected a compensation bid from Chris Ward, after he and bride Kerry’s overseas nuptials were wrecked by alleged food poisioning. This, despite the firm having settled with some of their guests who were also struck down.

The groom and other friends and family who fell ill, but have had their applications for financial redress turned down, will now have to appeal through the courts. The Wards flew to the Dominican Republic with Thomson in March 2010 for what was supposed to be the happiest holiday of their lives. But romance turned to disaster when 25 of the 26-strong wedding party fell ill, forcing the couple to postpone their big day.

Mr Ward, now 33, spent a lengthy period in hospital due to his illness, while others could barely move, such was their pain. Two years on, and 15 of those affected have still not received compensation – including the groom – with Thomson refusing to accept liability.

Lawyers representing the complainants have criticised the tactics adopted by the firm, after being forced to issue court proceedings following the outbreak at the five-star Riu Bachata hotel.

The holidaymakers whose cases have not been settled now face having to appeal through the courts.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, for the guests, says the resort has a history of illness problems among guests.

The wedding group were staying for two weeks, but their celebrations were ruined when guests suffered extreme gastric illness, including symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and lethargy. Some were so ill they visited their GPs on their return, with one suffering from a severe stomach infection caused by exposure to shigella bacteria – a serious bacterial infection often related to poor food hygiene.

From just the second day of their holiday, both Mr Ward and his 27-year-old wife-to-be, from Springfield, suffered from severe diarrhoea, sickness, stomach cramps, abdominal pain, lethargy and lost weight throughout their trip.

Mr Ward said: “What should have been the holiday of our dreams, turned into an absolute nightmare. We had to delay our wedding for days because I was in hospital.

“I had lost so much weight that my suit looked like it was falling off me.

“There were so many signs of how it could have been caused. We would see chefs just microwaving food that need to be oven-cooked.

“There was one instance where there was a chef in the toilet who just left without washing his hands.

“I can’t believe some of our party have had their cases settled while others haven’t.”

After being hospitalised for three days on a drip, antibiotics and other painkillers, Mr Ward eventually walked up the aisle.

Mrs Ward added: “On the day of the wedding, my dad saw men in full protective clothing and masks fumigating our hotel room, but we hadn’t been told anything about this.

“The tour reps didn’t care either, Thomson’s attitude was very blasé and they did not seem to care.

“It was just embarrassing for us that our wedding guests had to point out dead flies in the food and on serving spoons to staff.”

In total, Irwin Mitchell were asked to settle for 39 guests, including another partes at the hotel; 19 of which remain open.

Suki Chhokar, a travel law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, representing the group, said: “What happened at the Riu Bachata is totally unacceptable.

“Serious illness not only ruined the holiday for 39 guests, it ruined wedding celebrations and has caused significant illness which is still affecting people now. Sadly this is not an isolated incident.

“While the tour operator has settled the claims of some of the guests, Thomson is refusing to take responsibility for the illness of 19 guests, 10 of whom are still suffering symptoms two years on. Given that liability remains in dispute we now have no choice but to issue court proceedings.”

Thomson was asked for a comment, but had not supplied one at the time of going to press.