Thomas Cook Finds E. Coli at Egypt Hotel Where Couple Died

(Bloomberg) -- Tour operator Thomas Cook Group Plc said it found high levels of bacteria at an Egyptian hotel where a British couple died last month.

Tests on food and hygiene standards uncovered E. coli and staphylococcus at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in Hurghada, where John and Susan Cooper died on Aug. 21, according to a statement late Wednesday. The examination of air, water quality and the swimming pools were normal.

Thomas Cook shares fell 0.6 percent to 77.45 euros at 10:48 a.m. on Thursday, extending their decline to 37 percent this year.

“It is clear from these results that something went wrong in August at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada and that standards fell below what we expect from our hotel partners,” the U.K. company said, adding that the results are preliminary. The presence of the bacteria would likely “explain the raised level of illness reported among guests at the hotel during this time.”

Despite finding the bacteria, Thomas Cook said the deaths remain unexplained because autopsy results aren’t yet known and specialists conducting the tests weren’t allowed access to the Coopers’ hotel room. Egyptian authorities are conducting their own investigation, it said. E. coli is commonly found in the human gut, where it usually causes no harm. The bacteria on food can cause lethal outbreaks.

Blocking Reservations

The statement on the test results is the company’s first detailed comment after the deaths and follows speculation in the U.K. media about carbon monoxide poisoning or shigella, another bacteria. Neither possibility was supported by the investigation, Thomas Cook said.

The company is blocking reservations at the hotel for its customers and is putting together compensation packages for people who stayed there in August and have declared that they fell ill.

The hotel is not exclusively used by Thomas Cook, with German tour operators TUI AG, FTI Group and Schauinsland also selling it.

TUI said it had more than 300 guests staying at the Aqua Magic at times August, and has conducted two audits after the deaths. Both probes “had positive scorings and did not show any indication that could cause health issues or could be related to the two deaths,” the company said in a statement, adding that it did not record any unusual levels of illness among its guests.

No Evacuation

TUI did not evacuate its guests, and while it stopped selling the hotel in Britain, German clients can still book holidays there.

The five-star family resort, which opened in January 2014, features 703 rooms, an exclusive water slide park, a rooftop swimming pool, a private beach, and five restaurants. Steigenberger is a brand of hotel operator Deutsche Hospitality in Frankfurt. The hotel said in its own statement that “any high level of bacteria would not be acceptable by our high standards.”

Thomas Cook’s findings “have prompted us to commit further resources to tackle hygiene standards in those hotels where we identify a higher than average level of sickness,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Fankhauser said in the company’s statement. “I am very sorry for all our customers who fell ill while on a Thomas Cook holiday at this hotel.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.