Asbestos victim’s family needs Springfield Paper Mill memories in Maidstone

The widow of a man killed by an asbestos-related lung cancer needs the memories of former Springfield Paper Mill workers in Maidstone during the 1950s and 1960s.

Mary Salt’s husband, Keith died in Maidstone Hospital on September 15, 2018. An inquest hearing at The Archbishop’s Palace on October 29 by Assistant Coroner, Katrina Hepburn concluded that Keith died from mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust and fibres. It is believed that Keith from Maidstone was exposed to asbestos while working at Springfield Paper Mill, in Sandling Road.

The Mill manufactured paper for more than 200 years and once employed 1,000 people. The site is now a new home development, but the Mill’s iconic Grade II listed chimney is still visible.

Keith, his nickname was Sam when he was younger, was employed as a maintenance worker in the Mill with W & R Balston from 1950 to 1961, known at the time as ‘Balstons’. It was his job to repair the Mill’s heating network, which involved the removal of asbestos lagging from the pipes and boilers. He and his colleagues would even eat their sandwiches in the boiler room. He would come home with his overalls covered in dust and Mary would shake them out in the garden and wash them.

The father of five was a keen gardener, enjoyed playing football with his 13 grandchildren and doing DIY up until his health started to deteriorate. Keith was also Mary’s carer after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2006.

Died from the asbestos-related lung cancer called mesothelioma

He started to suffer from breathing problems in 2014. It was put down to asthma and old age, and he continued to be Mary’s main carer up until about a year before his death at the age of 83.

Birchall Blackburn Law is helping Mary and her family to make an industrial disease compensation claim to support her future care needs. To be able to do so the family needs the help and memories for the former Mill workers.

Joanne Keen, a specialist asbestos industrial disease solicitor with Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “Mesothelioma takes decades to develop and it is not usually until the end of a person’s working life, when they should be enjoying a long and happy retirement with family and friends, that the cruel cancer takes all that away. To help Mary and her family we would like to hear from former employees of Springfield Paper Mill, in Sandling Road, about the presence of asbestos.

“During the 1950s and 1960s did you work at the Mill or for W & R Balston? Can you remember working alongside Keith Salt, also known as Sam? What were the working condition like? Can you talk about the presence of asbestos? Please get in touch. Your details will remain confidential.”

Worked at Springfield Paper Mill in Maidstone

Mary and Keith met while he worked at Springfield Paper Mill and they married in February 1956.

Mary, aged 85, says: “Keith had a very strong sense of duty towards caring for me. He thought that it was his responsibility to look after me when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and he was often reluctant to accept any help from others, including members of our family.

“Keith did everything for me. Cook and prepare our meals – he often had to cut my food and feed me – and do a lot of chores around the house as well as manage and administer medication. He helped me get up and dress, and bath and shower daily.”

It was in the August of 2018 that Keith and his family were told that he was suffering from mesothelioma.

Mary says: “My whole family and I were very shocked. It was difficult to take in. From then on, he started to deteriorate rapidly. He began to develop pain in the abdomen and lost his appetite. He could do little but get from his bed to a chair and back again. His mood became quite low. He soon became frustrated with feelings of helplessness. He has a great sense of duty towards caring for me, but he was unable to do so.

“It was very distressing to see my husband deteriorate and suffer so much over the last few months of his life. It was terrible for my family and me to see him in so much pain and frustration.”

The Department of Work and Pensions says that 53,000 people will eventually die from mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037 in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than 2,500 people a year die from mesothelioma.

Anyone who can help with memories and insight into the presence and use of asbestos while working at Springfield Paper Mill, in Maidstone, please call Joanne Keen at Birchall Blackburn Law on freephone 0800 783 8485 or email jlkeen@birchallblackburn.co.uk. Your details will remain confidential.