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Catering worker’s daily struggle with ill effects of Aquatics Centre gas leak

A 27-year-old woman who fell into a coma as a result of the gas leak at London’s Aquatics Centre in March is still suffering serious physical effects more than three months later.

Posted on 18 July 2022

Catering worker Saffron Phillips, who is asthmatic, suffers chest pain and has difficulty breathing. She can no longer run, walk upstairs without feeling breathless and has returned to work on very light duties.

Saffron Philips

Saffron, pictured, who lives in East Ham, says that before the toxic chemical incident at the Stratford former Olympic site on 23 March, her role as a cook and kitchen worker meant that she would be on her feet for between 10 and 15 hours a day with regular use of stairs.

However the lack of oxygen Saffron suffered during the gas leak is believed to have resulted in serious muscle weakness that will take several months to recover from. She has been told she will suffer memory problems for the next few years. Since the incident she has attended hospital on a number of occasions because of breathing difficulties and is receiving counselling for PTSD.

On the day of the gas leak in which 200 people were evacuated from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Saffron started work at 6.10am at the nearby building site.

Just after 9am she noticed the van delivering chemicals to the Olympic pool as she was briefly outside putting rubbish in the bins. About 20 minutes later the odour of bleach and gas was noticeable and the building site fire warden set off the fire alarms and told everyone to evacuate the building.

However once outside the smell of chemicals overwhelmed Saffron – she couldn’t breathe, began choking and gagging and suddenly fainted.

Building site medical emergency workers helped her to a minibus to take her to an ambulance which took her to hospital. On the way she was given nebulisers and steroids and once at Newham University Hospital Saffron was put into an induced coma. She had to have emergency resuscitation and was in hospital for five days before she was allowed to go home.

The investigations into the cause of the incident by Newham Council are ongoing.

Saffron said:

“I could have died because of the gas leak at the London Aquatics Centre. I had to be rushed to hospital and only the emergency care I received on that day saved me.

“I still have pain in my chest, throat, I can’t stand up for a long time or walk for a long time. The GP has increased my asthma medication as a result. I have pain in my chest when sitting and standing and the GP has given me codeine to see if that will help relax me. I had antibiotics as I had a chest infection also. I had chemical burns on my arms which thankfully have now healed.”

Saffron’s legal case is being investigated by Leigh Day solicitor Charlie Holt, who said:

“Saffron had a terrible experience on the day of the gas leak at the London Aquatics Centre. She was just enjoying a normal day at work when this incident turned her life upside down. Unfortunately our investigations have revealed that such chemical incidents at swimming pools are not uncommon.

“Leisure centres need to pay heed to their responsibility to ensure the safety of their customers, staff and workers and the general public who live and work in the surrounding buildings. The highest levels of safety need to be applied in the handling of chemicals in areas near to public use.”

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Charlie Holt

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