Bereavement due to traumatic death

Dorothy - Interview 28

Age at interview: 65

Brief outline: In 2005 Dorothy's son, Mark, was killed in an industrial incident. He was working in a waste and recycling plant. Dorothy was shocked and angry. Counselling, hypnotherapy and Compassionate Friends have helped.

Background: Dorothy was a civil servant (now retired). She is married and has 2 children (1 died).

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In April 2005, Dorothy’s son, Mark, was killed in an industrial incident. He was working in a waste and recycling plant at the time. On the day he died he had been asked to load and bale 4,000 gas filled aerosols. The machine was not designed for this purpose. He was alone in the building when the load of aerosols exploded. Mark screamed for help, but the fire exit was locked on the inside. The main door would not open at first because it got sealed due to the heat, and the fire extinguishers did not work. Mark was taken to hospital, and put on life support, until Dorothy and her husband arrived. The doctor said that due to Mark’s burns his chances of survival were nil, so life support was discontinued.
Dorothy and her husband were devastated. Mark had left a wife and two children. They were devastated too. The family liaison officer made things worse by describing in detail what had happened on the day Mark died. Dorothy did not get any help from the police. She phoned a solicitor for help. She also phoned the Centre for Corporate Accountability. This is a charity concerned with the promotion of worker and public safety. The organisation provides free and confidential advice. Dorothy found help there.
The coroner refused to release Mark’s body. He said that he was waiting to see if the Crown Prosecutor was going to bring any criminal charges. Dorothy wanted to leave flowers at the place where Mark died, but the company refused her access to their property. Dorothy decided to leave flowers at the gate of the industrial estate where the company was situated. She did this on a regular basis, until the company asked the police to tell Dorothy that they would charge her with criminal harassment. Dorothy was shocked that the company was so inhuman and uncaring and that they denied her the right to leave flowers in memory of Mark.
The Crown Prosecutor decided that there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against the directors of the company. Mark’s body was released and the funeral took place. The family had a humanist funeral and then Mark was cremated.
Dorothy was consumed with rage. She was angry that criminal charges had not been brought and that they had to wait so long for the funeral. None of Mark’s work colleagues came to the funeral, which was also upsetting.
Dorothy saw her GP, who prescribed diazepam to help her sleep. She also saw a psychiatrist, who said that he could not help her because she was not mentally ill, and that she was suffering from grief. She saw a counsellor, and had 10 sessions of private counselling, which was very helpful. She also had some hypnotherapy, which was wonderful. The hypnotherapy helped her to get rid of the flashbacks she was having. She kept seeing Mark consumed by flames. Dorothy also asked for Cruse counselling, but she has been on the waiting list for about a year. She found great comfort by communicating with members of Compassionate friends via their chat room on the internet.
Dorothy wanted to prepare for the inquest. She was shocked when the coroner demanded £566 before he would send her the evidence that might be presented at the inquest. She was told that the coroner’s action was illegal, so demanded the money back. Her solicitor said that he would go the small claims court, so the coroner repaid the money and withdrew from the case.
Another coroner considered the evidence at the inquest, which took place in February 2009. The jury gave a narrative verdict, not the verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ that Dorothy had wanted. After the inquest Dorothy felt devastated and exhausted and let down by fellow citizens. Health and Safety will now decide whether or not charges will be brought against the company. The company has accepted liability for Mark’s death, but Dorothy’s daughter-in-law is still waiting for compensation.
Dorothy, like the rest of the family, has been deeply affected by Mark’s death. With others she has started an organisation, Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK). This is a national campaigning network which campaigns to stop workers and others being killed in preventable incidents and which directs bereaved families to sources of legal help and emotional support. Dorothy is trying to re-build her life but sometimes she still feels that life is not worth living.
Dorothy was interviewed in 2009.


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