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Veteran Geoffrey Platts dies from legionella bacteria in water tank at St Clement's Court in Herne Bay

By Aidan Barlow

A war veteran who survived 25 missions in a bomber over Germany was killed by a water-borne disease at sheltered flats in Herne Bay.

An inquest heard ill-judged plumbing on a shower had caused legionella bacteria to develop in a water tank at St Clement’s Court in Canterbury Road.

The tragic mistake caused the death of Geoffrey Platts, who contracted the airborne disease in October 2012, aged 88.

Geoffrey Platts, who flew dozens of missions over Germany during the war

After his death, the bacteria was discovered in three other flats at St Clement’s Court, which is run by Anchor Trust.

An inquest heard it had likely developed as a result of private “plumbing installation arrangements” previously made to Mr Platts’ shower by an unknown person unconnected to Anchor Trust.

The installation of a pump to increase pressure on the hot side only had allowed water to be forced back into the cold water tank, making it luke warm – the perfect breeding ground for legionella to develop.

As a result, coroner Rebecca Cobb ruled his death had been from misadventure.

Mr Platts’ son David, who lives in Normandy, France, was in Canterbury with his wife Christine for the inquest.

He said: “My father served on 25 missions as a rear gunner in a liberator bomber when the average life expectancy was three trips. He survived that, but not this. It’s appalling.

Geoffrey Platts had a distinguished war record

"My old man didn’t have lots of health problems. He wasn’t ready to die.

“This year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day and he was going to come over to us in Normandy. It really upsets me that he won’t be here.”

The inquest heard Mr Platts had moved into the flat in September 2012 and was admitted to Kent and Canterbury Hospital on October 10. He died on November 1.

While in hospital, his urine tested positive for legionella bacteria, which was then traced back to St Clement’s.

Ms Cobb said: “We do have the knowledge that this was not the only flat in the complex that was affected. He was the only person who sadly suffered as a result.

"I’m not going to be treating his death as just from natural causes. We have heard that the plumbing installation arrangements were the obvious starting point for the bacteria to develop.”

Anchor Trust discovered three other cases of legionella at St Clement’s Court and instigated a comprehensive cleansing operation.

The firm’s head of maintenance, Michael Fox, told the inquest written advice had been given to residents about safety measures.

St Clement's Court, where war hero Geoffrey Platts contracted the legionella bug

He said: “We had a pamphlet for customers asking them to be aware of the temperatures water should be at. We tell all customers to run the tap for three minutes if they have been away for longer than seven days.”

"My old man didn’t have lots of health problems. He wasn’t ready to die" - Mr Platt's son David

But Mr Platts questioned the advice, saying: “Their advice is to run taps for three minutes if you’ve been away, but legionella is an airborne disease.

"Do they expect residents to hold their breath for three minutes? It’s totally the wrong thing to say.”

Ms Cobb concluded: “From the evidence given by Mr Fox we can see that Anchor have not just applied changes to St Clement’s Court, but nationally as well.

"I’m satisfied that Anchor Trust in respect of this flat had done what it could with the system that was there.”

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