A CORONER said exposure to asbestos played a "significant "role in the death of a former shipyard worker.

Gordon Gibson died aged 86 on August 17 last year.

At an inquest held into his death at Barrow Town Hall yesterday, assistant coroner Paul O'Donnell ruled Mr Gibson died as a result of industrial disease.

The inquest heard the Dalton man worked in the testing area at the shipyard between 1959 and 1992, originally joining as a plumber.

His son Steve said he had heard stories of how his dad and his colleagues played with the toxic material at work.

He said: "They made snowballs out of asbestos and threw them at each other.

"They would also make asbestos pillows and sleep on them during night shifts."

The inquest was told Mr Gibson died from heart failure, but asbestos was a major contributing factor in his death, the ruling by the coroner noted.

Barrow has the highest rate of asbestos-related cancer in the country.

And the inquest followed the forming of a new support group, the Cumbria & Lancashire Asbestos Support Advice Group.

Graham Ding, chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum said the kind of behaviour Mr Gibson's son described was a familiar story.

He said: "I the work I have done it has become a common story of people playing with asbestos in this way.

"These people have been mostly the young apprentices who would not have been aware how dangerous it was."

Speaking after the hearing, Steve said Gordon was "very good" dad and a keen sportsman who played football and cricket.

"He was very active until about the last two years of his life and then he became ill," Steve added.