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Telford grandmother's asbestos death linked to 1983 COD Donnington fire

Telford | News | Published:

A grandmother's death has become the latest to be linked to a fire at a former Army depot in Telford that showered homes and gardens for miles around with toxic asbestos dust.

The clean-up operation after the fire in 1983

Marion Groves lived for just four months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable form of cancer that cannot be cured. Caused by inhaling asbestos dust, sufferers typically live with it for decades before any symptoms appear.

Marion Groves

Marion's daughter Mandy James believes that like many others, her mother was exposed in 1983 during the fallout from the fire at the Ministry of Defence-owned COD Donnington in Telford.

Reports from the time show ash containing asbestos was blown across a 15-square mile area, although at first there were no warnings that the dust was dangerous and it was not cleaned up for days.

Marion, 67, was a key holder for Telford District Council and would have been working at Dawley Information Centre, part of the affected area, on the day of the fire, her family said. A local magistrate, she also lived in Dawley and remained in the same house where husband Jim still lives until her death on January 30, 2015.

Mandy, 44, from Shrewsbury, who is now a mother herself to Ben, 19, and Matty, 16, said: "Mum was still very fit and active and used to go to the gym every week. She was a magistrate up until the November, only stepping down after she got diagnosed.

"When we got the results I had heard of mesothelioma, but mum and dad hadn't and they asked what the treatment was. I had to tell them there wasn't one.

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"It was very quick. Thankfully mum didn't suffer for too long, but it was awful because she was in denial. She was still planning for the future and we didn't have the heart to correct her."

Throughout her illness, Marion continued to help good causes and raised about £8,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, Asbestos Support West Midlands and Severn Hospice in Apley where she spent her final days.

She died there on the morning of a charity ball she had helped to organise, but family and friends went ahead in her honour.

The 1983 fire at COD Donnington in Telford

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Mandy, a health visitor, added: "My mum didn't die, asbestos killed her and I need to know I have tried my best to find out how she was exposed. I want answers.

"There are a lot of people who would've known mum in Dawley so hopefully someone might be able to shed a bit more light on how this happened."

Madelene Holdsworth, an industrial disease specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, is handling a number of similar cases for families who believe their loved ones died of asbestos exposure as a result of the fire.

She said: "Hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have come into contact with asbestos dust that day. We have heard reports of children playing out in the street, thinking it was snow. Sadly they were oblivious to the risks, but for people like Marion that contact may have proved fatal and that is what we are trying to establish so her family can get the answers they need to move on."

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