Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

P&O Ferries' apology for not helping ill pensioner

A leading ferry operator has been accused of refusing to help a 67-year-old man who was too ill to drive.

Alex Walker (67) recently came to Northern Ireland from Scotland for a short break after the death of his wife and the sudden death of his 35-year-old son two weeks previously.

But just two days into his stay in Bangor last week, the grandfather-of-two suffered a life-threatening stroke in the early hours of the morning.

Fortunately, a neighbour called an ambulance which took Mr Walker to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald for treatment.

After his discharge from hospital, Mr Walker intended to return home with his car but felt too ill to drive.

A relative offered to drive his vehicle on to the P&O ferry in Larne while his daughter agreed to meet him on the Scottish side and drive the car off the boat.

But P&O Ferries refused to allow this to happen. As a result, his daughter Heather (38) was forced to make a round trip to Northern Ireland and bring her father home last Sunday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Walker, who lived in Belfast for 29 years before moving to Scotland, had to fight back tears as he described his distressing experience.

“I was okay because I have friends and relatives in Northern Ireland,” said the father-of-two.

“There was no sympathy from P&O, nothing. I found their attitude terrible. In the end my daughter cancelled a holiday to Blackpool so that she could come and get me and bring me home.”

Mr Walker, who now lives in Ayrshire, lost his Northern Irish wife Elizabeth (65) after a 17-year illness on July 1.

The former security guard’s only son David, aged 35, then died suddenly two weeks later on July 19 after an epileptic seizure.

He was staying with a close family friend when he fell ill.

Mr Walker, who took the ferry to Larne on August 6, was planning to return to Scotland on August 12.

The ferry operator has admitted it should have been more sensitive to Mr Walker’s situation.

A spokesman for P&O said: “P&O Ferries operates in accordance with all relevant health and safety regulations and guidelines. These are designed to protect all passengers using our ferries, but sometimes they fail to account for the human side of events. In this instance we should have gone the extra mile for Mr Walker.

“We will be contacting Mr Walker to see just what we can do to make this up to him |and his family.”

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