- Couple died within hours of each other
- Thomas Cook removes all guests from hotel where deaths occurred
- Travel firm admits ‘further reports of a raised level of illness among guests’
Tour operator Thomas Cook has addressed speculation about the deaths of a couple at a Red Sea resort in Egypt, stating there is no evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.
John and Susan Cooper, from Burnley, Lancashire, were staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada when they died within hours of each other on Tuesday.
Their daughter Kelly Ormerod was holidaying with her parents when Mr Cooper, 69, died in his room. Ormerod said her 63-year-old mother, a Thomas Cook employee, was taken to hospital but later died.
The travel firm announced all its holidaymakers would be removed from the hotel as a precaution and would be offered alternative hotels within Hurghada from Friday onwards, as well as giving them the option to return home.
A spokesman said on Friday: “The circumstances of their deaths remain unclear. We are aware of the speculation in some of today’s media that their deaths may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Currently we have no evidence to support this.”
Ormerod said the family were in “utter shock” as they awaited results of post-mortem examinations on her parents.
In a statement to Lancashire-based radio station 2BR, Ormerod said: “As a family we are devastated. Mum and dad meant the world to me and the children, and we are in utter shock over what has happened and what is happening.
“Prior to going on holiday, mum and dad were fit and healthy. They had no health problems at all.
“What I want is to clear up some of what is being reported. We have no cause of death, a post-mortem is under way.”
Ormerod said her father had “died in the hotel room” in front of her, and praised the tour operator, adding: “I can’t praise them enough for what they’ve done.”
She said her focus was now on getting her children home, and she thanked people for their messages of support.
According to Reuters, a statement from the Red Sea provincial governor’s office, entitled “normal death of an English old man and his wife”, said both had died of heart failure.
Mr Cooper suffered a “circulatory collapse” and died at the hotel. Mrs Cooper was taken to hospital after fainting and died there, it said.
A Thomas Cook spokesman added: “The circumstances of their deaths are still unclear. We have also received further reports of a raised level of illness among guests.
“Safety is always our first priority, so as a precautionary measure we have taken a decision to remove all our customers from this hotel.
“We are offering customers alternative hotels within Hurghada, as well as giving them the option to return home. For those customers who choose to come home, we have made arrangements to fly them back today, 24 August. While we understand this is upsetting for those on holiday, we believe this is the right thing to do.
“We continue to work closely with the hotel and are supporting the authorities with their investigations. We will be contacting those customers due to travel to the Steigenberger Hotel in Hurghada in the next four weeks to offer alternative holiday options.”
The operators said it had audited the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in late July, and said it had received an overall score of 96 percent.
The listing for the hotel on the Thomas Cook website includes a line saying: “Sorry, there is currently no availability.”
A spokesperson for travel industry body ABTA said: “We are very sad to hear of the deaths of two British holidaymakers in Hurghada and our thoughts are with their family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Both ABTA and Thomas Cook refused to comment on the hotel auditing process.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Friday evening that it was continuing “to support the family of a couple who died in Hurghada” and anyone staying at the Steinberger Aqua Magic Hotel should “follow the advice of their tour operator and local authorities”.
The incident comes as Egypt is trying to revive tourism, a crucial source of income, while the economy is still struggling from the years of turmoil that followed a 2011 popular uprising.
Red Sea resorts such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh are among the most popular among European and other holidaymakers.