Widow vows to break down legionnaires’ wall of silence

Bert Air
Bert Air
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The grieving partner of the first person to die in the summer’s legionnaires’ outbreak has told the Evening News she will be launching a civil case to discover the truth about his death.

Rena MacDonald, who lives in Seafield, had been with Bert Air for 12 years before he died on June 5, just hours after being admitted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

The 56-year-old is believed to have contracted the illness while working as a builder in Gorgie, the area at the centre of the outbreak in south-west Edinburgh, though the source of the disease is still unknown.

Two other people, John Lonnie, 65 and an unnamed man in his 40s, died, and more than 100 people were treated for confirmed or suspected cases of legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh between May and 

The legionnaires’ outbreak is being investigated by Lothian and Borders Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, despite calls for a public inquiry.

Mr Lonnie’s widow, Jennifer, has announced recently that she is planning a civil claim after coming up against “a wall of silence”.

Ms MacDonald, 54, said that six months on from her partner’s death, she feels those in charge of the inquiry are “dragging their heels” and that too many questions still remain.

“This isn’t about money,” she said. “I just want answers. Where did this come from and why? Someone has to be responsible, and I want to make sure this isn’t swept under the carpet. So many people are still suffering because of this.”

Ms MacDonald also revealed that she was contacted last week regarding a change to Mr Air’s death certificate.

She explained: “The health and safety people want to change the cause of death from lobar pneumonia, to legionella pneumonia, which means it was the legionnaires’ that actually killed him, rather than just contributing to his death.

“The fact that it’s taken them this long to even confirm what he died from, coupled with them still not being able to tell us where it came from, just makes me feel like they are dragging their heels. No-one has given me any more information and I still feel so angry and upset.”

The father-of-two’s death came at the same time as his mother, Hannah, was recovering from a fall in another Edinburgh hospital.

However, Ms MacDonald revealed that the 83-year-old, who had “never been the same” since the passing of her son, has also recently passed away.

She said: “She died last week of an aneurysm. The family think the grief she was feeling had a lot to do with it. She was never 100 per cent since she heard about Bert, just never the same.

“I doubt I’ll ever get over his death. The pain doesn’t go away and what makes it even harder is that I know if he hadn’t been working at that site he would still be here with me.

“I’ve never been on my own before and at this time of year it’s even worse. I miss him so much.”