Hotel balcony fall man left stranded in Israel with broken spine
A holidaymaker has been left stranded in hospital in Israel while he waits to see if his insurance will pay to fly him home.
David McLaughlin, 20, from Weston-super-Mare suffered a broken spine when he fell 14ft from a hotel balcony in Egypt.
He has been in hospital for almost a week but so far his insurance company has not agreed to pay for an emergency medical evacuation to receive surgery.
David’s family say the company, AXA, has told them he may have breached his travel insurance policy by consuming too much alcohol before the accident. David insists he only drank a reasonable amount.
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Today, David, who works for Ladbrokes in Weston, lies stuck in a hospital bed in Be’er Sheva, Israel, with his mother by his side, waiting for news.
The nightmare began in the early hours of last Wednesday morning, hours into his one-week holiday to Taba in Egypt with his best friend, Laura King.
After a walk on the beach, the two returned to their private balcony, where they shared a bottle of wine before Laura went to bed.
David says he was listening to music, perched on the edge, when he fell. The next memory he has is of being taken away in a wheelchair.
After being transferred to a number of hospitals which had inadequate facilities, David was finally taken to Soroka Medical Centre in Be’er Sheva, where he now faces costs of £1,000 per day for the hospital bed and possibly tens of thousands of pounds more for an operation. His other option is to find £25,000 to be flown back to Britain with special assistance to receive the care. But he says the hospital will not give his passport back until he has paid his bill.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Be’er Sheva, David told the Post that he is desperate to get home and get the right treatment, close to his family. He said: “I just want to be home so much. It’s been absolutely horrible what’s happened so far.
“I’m feeling a lot better now my mum is here with me. I didn’t get to speak to her for 24 hours after it happened. I was so worried – it’s been a very scary experience.”
His mum, Liz McLaughlin, told the Post that she has to return home on Saturday due to the soaring costs.
“I don’t want to leave him here but we have to go home,” she said. “We are still waiting on the insurance company despite numerous phone calls. We are just hoping for a solution.”
David’s AXA travel insurance policy states that claims for accidents are void if the claimant injures himself “arising directly or indirectly from alcohol abuse”.
David insists that he was drinking responsibly and that he was enjoying his first holiday abroad since the age of seven in the way that anybody would. He said he was not “abusing” alcohol.
AXA insurance told the Post it was still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident and would not comment on the family’s claims that it was checking to see whether his alcohol consumption had breached the policy.
AXA spokesman John Heredea said: “AXA insurance is aware of the incident involving Mr McLaughlin and is currently investigating the circumstances of his claim, including obtaining all relevant medical and accident reports.
“AXA has prioritised this investigation as a matter of urgency, as we appreciate the situation Mr McLaughlin currently finds himself in. However, as the claim remains open and our investigation is ongoing at this stage, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
David and his family have spoken to the British consulate in Be’er Sheva, whose staff told them there was nothing they can do.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the decision on payment of hospital and repatriation costs was one for David’s insurance company.
The spokesman said: “We are aware of the position of a British national in Israel. We continue to provide consular assistance to David McLaughlin and his family at this difficult time.”
Laura is now back in Weston. She told the Post that she was woken up at 7am on the morning of the incident by hotel staff who described the situation. She said she hasn’t seen David since.
She added: “The first day he was transferred I was so upset and he was really frightened.
“The whole situation is a mess. It’s extremely distressing and very upsetting for everyone. I desperately want him to come home now so he can be with his family and friends and get the treatment he needs.”