THE children of a former power station worker from Rochford are desperately seeking answers after their father died from an illness linked to asbestos exposure. 

Fred Wheeler passed away in October 2021, after more than ten years of breathing difficulties. But it was not until his death that his family was told he had been suffering from asbestosis, an illness linked to asbestos exposure. 

Sons David, 58, Neville, 57, and Andrew, 51, are now appealing for any of their dad’s former power station workmates for information on the conditions he would have faced during his employment.

Fred was 83 at the time of his death, and worked in a series of power stations in the late 50s and throughout the 60s.


David said: “Dad started having lung problems a few years ago, but it all seemed to be under control, so his death came as a complete shock. Even more so when it was revealed he had asbestosis. Dad was so ill towards the end, and it was terrible to see him struggle for breath in those final years, with little we could do to help him. You feel powerless in those situations and dad didn’t deserve to see the end of his life come about that way.”

The family is keen to trace anyone who worked with Fred at Belvedere Power Station in South East London from 1958 to 1962, and at Tilbury Power Station from 1964 to 1969.

Echo: Fred and Pauline had three sons, who are now looking for information following their dad's death.Fred and Pauline had three sons, who are now looking for information following their dad's death. (Image: Irwin Mitchell)

During that time, Fred was employed as handyman and fitter by John Brown Land Boilers, and Foster Wheeler and John Brown Boilers respectively. Fred told his sons this was “always dusty work”. 

His workmates reportedly had no protective face masks or clothing when working on the power station.

Maria Roberts, asbestos-related disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, is supporting the family.

She said: “The use of asbestos in industrial settings was once widespread throughout the UK. Fred’s death is another terrible example of the legacy it’s left behind and the impact it continues to have on so many families. Nothing can bring Fred back to his family, but we’re determined to help them find the answers they’re looking for.

“If anyone who remembers working with Fred could come forward, his sons would welcome hearing from them. Any details could prove vital to the investigation.”