Northern Rivers man dies 50 years after playing in asbestos
A CASINO man raised in the asbestos-plagued Baryulgil community on the Upper Clarence has died of mesothelioma, just eight months after his tragic diagnosis.
Ffloyd Laurie, 55, passed away in his home last Tuesday supported by family and friends.
He had endured five rounds of chemotherapy prior to November last year but the drug treatment failed to have a positive impact.
Mr Laurie's sister Diane Randall said his family was "heartbroken" over the father of four's sudden passing.
"He just deteriorated really quick, he went from healthy to relying on oxygen in no time," Ms Randall said.
"We all witnessed his last breath, he just kept telling him right up to the very end that we loved him, and that we would miss him."
She said the only consolation was knowing their loved one's suffering was over, given the toll of the disease on his well-being.
"We all want him back, but it just doesn't happen like that," she said.
Mr Laurie is believed to be the first victim of mesothelioma whose exposure to asbestos occurred as a child, rather than as an adult worker at the nearby James Hardie asbestos mine, which provided jobs for the local Aboriginal community from the 1940s to the late 1970s.
Just a week prior to Mr Laurie's death the NSW Education Department settled a lawsuit holding them responsible for his exposure to asbestos dust used on the Baryulgil Public School grounds when he was a student.
Ms Laurie's lawyer Tanya Segelov said the Education Department had settled the night before Mr Laurie's case was scheduled for a hearing, on January 17th.
Ms Segelov said while the settlement provided some relief for her client, Mr Laurie was unable to go on a long overdue honeymoon with his wife Noelene to the Barrier Reef before his death.
"The honeymoon as meant to be in November... there was a vague hope that he would get better, but he never did," Ms Segelov said.
"Everything had been booked, at the end of his sixth cycle of chemo (but) he actually just never (started the sixth cycle), because he got so sick
"The hope was he would get better after the side effects of the chemo left his body, but he just got weaker and weaker.
Ms Segelov said there was "huge huge shock and disbelief" among the children of the Baryulgil community following Ffloyd's diagnosis and death - because other victims could follow.
"It's still a rare disease but it's scary because they've all had a huge amount of exposure," she said.
She said there was "no argument" that asbestos wasn't a major health hazard in the mid to late 1970s, and therefore no excuse for letting kids play in mounds of asbestos.
"No one did anything to protect these kids... at the time Ffloyd was there, there was no protection."
"There was piles of asbestos all around that school, and you just can't imagine that would have happened in the suburbs of Sydney in the late 1970s."
"I think this community has been very badly treated."
Funeral next week
Mr Laurie's funeral will be held next Thursday Feb 9, at 11am, at St Mary's Catholic Church in Casino.
Ms Randall said the funeral was being advertised across the Northern Rivers, as Mr Laurie was well known both in the Richmond and Clarence Valleys.
A large turnout is expected.