Mum tells of 'holiday from hell'
Tour operator sued after 659 tourists became violently ill
A YOUNG mother has told how she lost more than one-and-a-half stone in weight after contracting salmonella while on a family 'holiday from hell' in Turkey.
Elizabeth Herity (32), from Meentaugh in Glenvar, Co Donegal, is one of more than 650 holidaymakers -- almost all of them from the UK -- who are suing a holiday firm for a total of more than €5.5m after they became violently ill at the Turkish resort of Sarigerme.
"This is one holiday I'll never forget," said Elizabeth. "It was a nightmare."
She developed severe vomiting and diarrhoea after she, her husband John and their two young daughters travelled from Belfast after spending €3,400 on their one-week, all-inclusive stay at the sun resort in August 2008.
Her youngest daughter, Aoibhinn, who was just nine months old at the time of the trip, also developed diarrhoea.
A firm of Manchester solicitors, Pannone, has now started legal proceedings against First Choice Holidays UK on behalf of 659 tourists who stayed at the four-star Holiday Village Hotel in Sarigerme between April and August 2008.
Their writ, which has been issued at London's High Court, alleges that many of them developed gastro-enteritis, including salmonella, C difficile, and other infections and says this was the result of them being given uncooked chicken and undercooked turkey, and being allowed to swim in pools contaminated with human faeces.
"Legal proceedings have been issued and served against First Choice," Paul McClorry, a partner at the law firm confirmed yesterday.
"These people had their holidays ruined through no fault of their own and we hope to reach an amicable settlement with First Choice but to date this has not been possible."
In a statement last night, First Choice Holidays UK insisted that it had not admitted liability over sickness claims at the holiday village.
"Whilst we accept that any level of sickness is unacceptable, the numbers of holidaymakers falling sick remains very low when the larger population is taken into consideration," the company's statement read.
"If someone does fall ill, we would ask that they contact us direct as quickly as possible. That way we can treat them as an individual, rather than a statistic in a legal firm's publicity machine."
The company also pointed out that in light of the reported issues at the resort, it had "significantly increased" its checks and had commissioned independent consultants who undertook additional rigorous audits during the summer.
Mrs Herity -- who is expecting her third child within days -- fell ill just three days before the family were due to fly home from Turkey.
"The diarrhoea started on the Saturday and I was eating Imodium like there was no tomorrow. It could have been very serious for Aoibhinn but luckily she didn't get the vomiting, only diarrhoea."
She said there were flies everywhere and one of the pools was closed to the public for three or four days because faeces were found in the water.
"This is a lesson well learned. It's no more package or all-inclusive holidays for us ever again," said Elizabeth. "It was a nightmare and it really ruined it for us."
Among a list of 30 separate particulars of claim in the writ against the holiday firm it is alleged that staff at the hotel left the buffet salad bar uncovered, allowing flies to land on it, re-used disposable cups, mixed fresh food with food which had been standing some time, and handled raw and cooked meats without washing their hands.
Staff are accused of serving food lukewarm, failing to refrigerate or freeze food, failing to keep the water supply reasonably safe, failing to store food at the correct temperature, and refilling water dispenser bottles from half-empty bottles left by guests.
Excrement is said to have been removed from the swimming pool with a net, without closing and cleaning the pool, and a children's pool is also said to have contained excrement and other human waste.