Toxic air fear pilot Richard Westgate sought help abroad

Richard Westgate Image copyright PA
Image caption Richard Westgate died in December 2012, aged 43, after complaining of long-term health problems

A British Airways co-pilot who thought he had been poisoned by repeated exposure to contaminated cockpit air, died as he sought treatment abroad.

Richard Westgate died in 2012 after moving to the Netherlands to seek help for symptoms he thought were caused by "aerotoxic syndrome".

His brother Guy told an inquest in Salisbury Mr Westgate had been in "excruciating pain" from the symptoms.

The 47-year-old said his brother felt let down and angered by UK doctors.

Heart muscle

He told the court the specialists in Holland were the first group of medics who gave him a "light at the end of the tunnel.

"He went there to be cured," he said.

However, coroner Dr Simon Fox QC ruled at the start of the inquest that "exposure to organophosphate in the course of his employment as a commercial pilot" was "not a proper issue to be examined by this inquest."

Mr Fox said he would look at whether the 43-year-old had died from an overdose, intended or not, of the insomnia drug pentobarbital.

He said he would also consider whether he had been suffering from myocarditis - an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Guy Westgate (right) and his mother Judith Westgate (centre) leave Wiltshire and Swindon Coroners Court in Salisbury

Mr Westgate's death was originally examined by retired senior coroner for Dorset, Sheriff Payne, who issued a report in February 2015 which raised concerns over air quality in aeroplanes.

The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) says it is common practice for airlines to use warm, compressed air taken directly from aircraft engines to pressurise the cabin.

Their research suggests this air, known as "bleed air", can become contaminated with engine oils and hydraulic fluids leading to illness among cabin crew through repeated exposure.

However, the air industry has argued there is no threat to passengers or crew.

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