David Johnson volunteered on the extension project as the school had a tight budget and “nothing was too much trouble for him”
David Johnson with his son Michael, an Eastfield Infant Primary School pupil from 1973 to 1976
The son of a man who helped extend a Cambridgeshire school is investigating whether the work might have contributed to his death from asbestos-related cancer.
Michael Johnson, 53, was a pupil at Eastfield Infant Primary School in St Ives, Cambridgeshire in the 1970s, when his dad David – a Design Engineer by trade – volunteered to build an extension.
David Johnson sadly died aged 83 in 2019 following a three-month battle with mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer linked to exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
His son is appealing for anyone who might have any information regarding the school project to come forward, having instructed lawyers to investigate.
Michael said: “Dad was a great man and nothing was too much trouble for him. We know nothing can ever make up for what has happened but we feel we deserve answers as to his exposure.”
He explained: “The school always had limited budgets, so they would ask parents to pitch in. Dad was more than happy to help.
“Before he died Dad said he remembered there being around eight or nine volunteers helping out and he had to cut sheeting with a handsaw and that created lots of dust.”
David left school at 16 in 1952 and immediately started an apprenticeship in a drawing office, going on to work for several companies in design roles.
After retiring to Hertfordshire, David developed symptoms of breathlessness and diverticulitis in October 2018. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2019 and died three months later.
Michael said: “Dad’s condition was getting gradually worse and he had issues with breathing. However, being told he had mesothelioma was the last thing any of us expected because of his work history.
“It was only when we talked after his diagnosis that we thought volunteering at the school may be an issue.”
Lacey St James, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell representing Michael said: “While many people often associate asbestos with the heavy industry its use was widespread in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and offices.
“We’ve seen incidents where support staff, teachers, and even former pupils have been affected by exposure to asbestos.
“Michael and the rest of his family remain devastated by David’s death and understandably have a number of concerns.
“It is believed David was never exposed to asbestos during his career and as such, his time volunteering at the school has come under the microscope.
“Therefore we would be keen to hear from anyone who recalls this project, as well as others with more general information regarding the presence of asbestos at Eastfield Infant School.”
A spokesperson for Eastfield Infant and Nursery School said: “We understand that legal advice is being sought about this historical matter so it would be inappropriate for the school to comment at this point.”
Michael added: “I’d be hugely grateful to anyone who might be able to come forward with information regarding the project or the school. It really could make a massive difference to our family.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Lacey St James at Irwin Mitchell on 0203 0403 445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org