London family sues Thomas Cook over Crete pool death

The family of a young Londoner who drowned at a hotel pool party while on holiday with friends in Crete is suing Thomas Cook for up to £100,000.

Shane Virmani, from Ilford, died in the resort of Malia after a night out celebrating his 26th birthday.

CCTV footage at the Mirage Studios Complex allegedly shows him being pulled into the water by friend Timothy Staines, who the family is also suing, at 5.50am on August 6, 2012. He is dragged out some 20 minutes later by hotel staff, who try to resuscitate him.

People are seen partying and getting out of the pool without  noticing that Mr Virmani, who could not swim, was unconscious and floating in it.

His family says the death could have been avoided. They allege that no staff were manning the water as required by Greek law, and that the pool was not fully lit and  should not even  have been open at that time. They accuse Thomas Cook of breaching its contract and duty of care to select accommodation that would follow Greek law and protect Mr Virmani’s welfare.

His mother Melanie, 50, said: “As a family we are broken. We are not a family any more because Shane is missing. You don’t expect your son to go on holiday and not come back. He was a hard worker, fun-loving, he’d bend over backwards for his friends.  It’s so painful and we’ll never get over it.”

The teaching assistant, who has two daughters, added: “This is us trying to get justice, the only thing that keeps us going. A 24-hour bar and an unmanned swimming pool don’t go together. It’s disgusting.”

Her solicitor, Kieran Mitchell of Slater and Gordon, said: “Had there been a lifeguard Shane wouldn’t have died. Ms Virmani has been left traumatised.” The 12 friends had been on a Thomas Cook Club 18-30 holiday. An inquest in Greece found Tesco worker Mr Virmani had consumed only a “limited quantity” of alcohol. It is claimed Mr Staines should have known his friend could not swim, and failed to check whether Mr Virmani could swim or needed assistance.

Mr Staines said: “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong. I look at the CCTV and it does look like it was me [who pulled him in]. I wish 100 per cent I didn’t pull him in, but I don’t feel I’m responsible for his death.

“We were just mates on holiday. He was a grown man. How was I supposed to know he couldn’t swim? I feel disappointed it has got this far. I can understand them pursuing Thomas Cook.”

Thomas Cook said: “We would like to reiterate our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Mr Virmani. Our teams offered every support and assistance possible not only at the time, but following this terrible event.”

In May Thomas Cook apologised and donated £1.5 million to Unicef over the deaths of Christianne and Robert Shepherd, aged seven and six, in a Corfu hotel in 2006. The siblings from Wakefield were killed by carbon monoxide from a faulty boiler.

Evening Standard

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