Northern Ireland man says dip at holiday hotel pool robbed him of hearing and cost him his job
A father-of-three has claimed a dip in a swimming pool on holiday cost him his hearing and his job.
Niall Coulter, from Strabane, splashed out on a break to a four-star resort, but a last-minute change left him in a basic hotel.
During the trip, after joining his family for a swim in the pool, he woke the next morning find warm liquid that resembled a "yellow pus-like substance" coming from his ears.
The 36-year-old, who now wears a hearing aid, said he had to give up his job as a taxi driver because he could no longer hear his customers' directions.
"This has robbed me of my life and career," Niall added. "If I could turn back the clock and get my hearing back, I would do it in a heartbeat.
"All it took was spending the first day of my holiday in and around the hotel pool to ruin my hearing.
"This is a living hell. Every day is a struggle because my ears are still pumping out goo three years on.
"It's never-ending pain, and now I'm told I need two more operations on both ears and am stuck with a hearing aid. I don't want any other person going through the hell I'm in."
Niall had been looking forward to his £2,600 holiday in Benidorm with his sisters, wife Sharon and three children.
But, he said, a week before they were due to go, his holiday company, the Global Travel Group Limited, arranged for his travel agent to call him to advise they were changing his hotel.
Despite his objections, Niall said he was told the new venue was an "upgrade" compared to his original Gemelos family-friendly Apartments.
He packed his bags and got on a plane but was devastated when he arrived to see what his upgraded hotel actually looked like.
"It was the absolute pits," Niall said. "It was like a backpackers' hostel, full of young people partying. It would have been fine for a lads' first-time holiday but not in the least bit suitable for a family holiday at all.
"The room was in need of a complete overhaul with the shower head hanging off the wall and dirty, broken wooden slats in the bed.
"The swimming pool looked like it belonged in the back of a villa. It was nothing like the waterslide pool, kids-friendly resort I had booked and was promised.
"I had paid for a fun-filled family break and was given something like Fawlty Towers instead."
Niall tried to make the best of things and joined his kids playing in the pool of the Palm Court Apartments.
The following morning, he woke up and felt warm liquid coming from his ears. He went to the bathroom and was horrified to see a yellow, pus-like substance.
"It was disgusting gunge and was just pouring out like a running tap," he said.
"The bed where I was sleeping was covered in it and looked like I had been in the gunk tank, it was that bad."
Niall went to a chemist who gave him ear drops but then, he said, his ears started ringing loudly and for the rest of the holiday he was unable to go into bars with loud music.
"It was a complete nightmare and wrecked the whole holiday," he said. "I could hardly sleep at night, the ringing was so loud. The liquid kept coming out."
When he later went to his GP, Niall was diagnosed with swimmer's ear. After returning home in September 2012, he said his hearing suddenly deteriorated.
After a series of hospital visits, he was told he had to have an operation on his right ear after the infection worsened.
He then had a procedure at Altnagelvin Hospital, a year after his holiday, but his hearing loss continued.
Niall said he was then forced to give up his job of three years as a private hire driver.
He added: "I had to give up my job I loved. I was gutted. But I just couldn't hear the customers properly any more.
"It had been my career, my life and the main source of income for my family. But, for safety, I had to stop. It was horrible."
To add to his misery, he was then fitted with a bulky hearing aid in the hope that it would improve his hearing.
Now, two years on, the dad's ears continue to leak and he has been told he faces a further two operations on both ears, and that his hearing will never recover.
He has now decided to take legal action.
Following his experience, Niall refuses to travel abroad, instead opting to go on holiday much closer to home.
He said: "I am too scared to go abroad on foreign holidays now. It's the kids and wife who are suffering."
Travel lawyer Paul Stevens of Simpson Millar, who is handling Niall's claim, said his company deals with hundreds of cases across the UK involving victims of swimming pool and water-related illnesses every year.
"Unfortunately, getting infections from hotel swimming pools is quite common," he added. "This has been very distressing for Niall and he will likely have complications for the rest of his life."
A spokesperson for tour company Global Travel Group Ltd said: "We are unfortunately unable to comment on the claims made by Mr Coulter as the matter is currently the subject of legal proceedings.
"Selling great holidays to the highest standard is of the utmost importance to members of the Global Travel Group."