South East Wales

Hurt Turkey tourist Michael Lonergan returns to Wales

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

A holidaymaker who broke his neck while diving into the sea in Turkey has been flown back home to south Wales.

Michael Lonergan, of Maesteg, was injured last week, but an insurance underwriter would not meet the £43,000 cost of his treatment or flight home.

The hospital treating him agreed to release him without payment and Monday's flight home was paid for by his employers Harsco and Tata Steel.

He was on board an air ambulance which landed at Cardiff airport at 2040 BST.

His father, John Lonergan, said it would be a big relief to get him home.

Mr Lonergan told BBC Radio Wales earlier that he was being flown home by a firm called Air Medical Ltd.

"It's a relief because we didn't have that sort of money to hand so there was no way that we could pay for it ourselves," he said.

Mr Lonergan said his son, 30, who is paralysed from the neck down, would be taken by ambulance to the University Hospital of Wales for assessment by a consultant.

Mr Lonergan said he hoped to be allowed to see him on Monday night for the first time since his injury.

"It's going to be a very emotional meeting," he said. "He's in a particularly poor condition at the moment."

Mr Lonergan said the past week had been a difficult time for his family.

"What made it more difficult was that initially everything was been taken care of by the insurance company and then on Wednesday last week they decided they weren't going to cover any costs whatsoever," he said.

'Needless risk'

Michael's insurance company refused to pay, saying clients should not expose themselves to "needless risk".

Insurance underwriter ETI Travel Protection declined to discuss his case, but said most policies had exclusions.

In an earlier statement, spokesman Adrian Lawrence said: "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."

Mr Lonergan said the Turkish hospital would liaise with his son's insurance company over his treatment, costing up to £30,000.

But he added that it was not out of the question that the costs could end up back with his family.

The insurance company has been criticised by the Lonergans' local MP Huw Irranca Davies for showing "no compassion".

'Knocked unconscious'

Michael Lonergan, his partner Debbie, and their children Jack, five, and Grace, one, were on their first family holiday, staying at the Didim Beach resort in Altinkum on the west coast of Turkey, when the incident happened.

His partner said in jumping 3ft from a pier into the sea he misjudged the depth of the water and hit 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.

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.

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