THEIR lives were strikingly similar - and tragically so were their deaths, an inquest heard.

Brian Smith and John Whitehead have become the latest victims of York's asbestos time bomb.

Both were born in York in 1942 and left school for jobs as apprentices at the city's British Rail Carriageworks, where they worked for more than 30 years.

Sadly, they also both lost their lives to mesothelioma at the age of 65 - after being exposed at work to lethal asbestos dust.

Coroner Donald Coverdale recorded verdicts of death from the industrial disease of mesothelioma at the inquests into both deaths at Sentinel House on Thursday.

Many scores of former York Carriageworks employees have died over the last two or three decades from exposure to deadly asbestos dust at the Holgate Road factory in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s.

The court heard how Mr Smith, of Moorgate, in Holgate, York, died four days before Christmas, having been diagnosed with the illness in July.

He had worked as an engineer at the carriageworks from 1957 until 1987, and the court heard evidence he had been in contact with asbestos during that time.

In a signed statement to his solicitors at Corries, in York, before his death, he said: "I believe that I have developed this condition as a result of exposure to asbestos while working at the carriageworks."

He said it was the only time in his life he had been exposed to the substance - having worked as a domestic engineer after he took voluntary redundancy in 1987.

During his early years, workers had been given no respiratory protection and safety measures only came into existence later in his career, he claimed.

Supporting statements from three of his former colleagues also confirmed he would have been continually exposed to asbestos during his time at the carriageworks.

Dr Greenstone, a consultant pathologist, said Mr Smith's occupational exposure to asbestos had been the cause of both his illness and also that of Mr Whitehead, of Willoughby Way, Acomb Wood, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2006 and died in March this year.

He worked as a fitter at the carriageworks from 1958 until 1962, when he was made redundant and went to work at the Terry's factory for ten months, before moving back to the carriageworks. He stayed there until 1995, when he took voluntary redundancy and became an engineering teacher.

In a statement before his death, he said he didn't recall working directly with asbestos but said it was found "in almost every area in which I worked".

He also recalled colleagues having "mock snowball fights" with handfuls of blue asbestos.

"No protective equipment was provided, especially in the early years," he said.

Dr Paula Boil, a consultant pathologist, said a post-mortem examination showed he had died of asbestos-related mesothelioma.

Mr Coverdale said: "It is now well-known that the carriageworks were a hazardous place to work some years ago because of the presence of asbestos."

He said both men had sadly joined the "lengthy list of the employees of the British Rail Carriageworks over the years who have suffered from asbestos-related illness".