South East Wales

Hurt Maesteg holidaymaker in Turkey insurance wrangle

Relatives of a holidaymaker who is paralysed in a hospital in Turkey say they have been told to pay about £43,000 to get him back to south Wales.

Michael Lonergan's family say he broke his neck diving into the sea and believed he was covered by insurance.

Hospital treatment is around £23,000 and flying Mr Lonergan, of Maesteg, back to the UK another £20,000.

Insurance underwriter ETI Travel Protection would not discuss his case, but said most policies had exclusions.

"It's been pretty horrendous," said Mr Lonergan's partner, Debbie.

Image caption Michael Lonergan was injured when he and his family went on holiday to Turkey

The couple and their children Jack, five, and Grace, one, were on their first family holiday, and staying at the Didim Beach resort in Altinkum on the west coast of Turkey.

"He had been swimming in the sea last Thursday and at the end of the pier there was a ladder to climb out," she added.

"Other people were jumping in off the pier and he thought he would.

"It was only about 3ft from the pier to the water but he misjudged the depth of the water and smacked his head on the sand."

She said Mr Lonergan, a keen boxer who works at Corus steel works in Port Talbot, was knocked unconscious after hitting his head before being rescued from the sea by a member of the public.

However, she said the circumstances of his injury had been disputed by the insurer.

He was taken to hospital before being transferred to the private Ozel Gazi hospital in Izmir, around two hours away, through the insurance company and underwent surgery.

The rest of his family were put up in a nearby hotel. They said they were told on Wednesday the insurers would not be paying up.

Mr Lonergan has feeling in his arm and right leg again, but his family said doctors feared he may not get the use of his left leg back, while he cannot control any of his limbs.

'Client confidentiality'

His father John, told BBC Radio Wales that his son would not have done anything rash, and had dived into the water at the same point as others.

His son may be moved on Saturday into a local general hospital where his father is concerned he won't receive "any of the attention that he needs now".

Journeys Travel Insurance issued the cover and is the claims handler, but it is the underwriter ETI which has declined to pay out.

"We were saddened when we were informed of the incident and we are unable to discuss a specific case such as this or go through the medical circumstances due to client confidentiality," said Adrian Lawrence of ETI.

"It is vitally important that members of the public who are travelling abroad act responsibly and as if they were uninsured.

"There are exclusions on most travel policies. One of the exclusions is wilful exposure to needless risk in any circumstances, except whilst in the act of saving or attempting to save a human life.

"It is very rare that we will make a decision not to pay out when one of our policy holders has been admitted to hospital whilst on holiday.

"Each case is considered individually and the vast majority of claims made are resolved quickly and in the customer's favour."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We aware of the hospitalisation of a British national and are providing consular assistance for the next of kin."

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