Marine Heliocopter Crash In Hawaii On March 2011 Released Radioactive Material Into The Surrounding Area

(K7KTR)   Environmental activist Carroll Cox says a helicopter that crashed onto the Kaneohe Sandbar on the evening of March 29, killing one marine and injuring three others, released radioactive material into the surrounding area. Cox says he was informed a week-and-a-half ago by military sources that the CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter contained a device known as an In-flight Blade Inspection System, or IBIS. Within the device are six half inch pellets that contain the radioactive isotope strontium-90, a known carcinogen with a half life of 29 years that’s easily absorbed by human bones. “I’m told by sources that some did contaminate, that meant that these capsules were breeched,” Cox said in an interview with Khon2. “I would like to see is an independent entity sample that area.” Cox believes the popular three acre sandbar should be off-limits ahead of the Labor Day weekend until the state Health Department and the Department of Land and Natural Resources can guarantee there is no risk to the public. “Sacrifice one holiday rather than sacrificing the untold numbers out there that may become exposed,” he said. DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said testing of the sandbar where the helicopter went down would proceed Friday morning in an effort to reassure the public that all is safe. “We’ll go out and do an assessment and make a determination later that day,” said Ward.

Late Thursday, Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman Maj. Alan Crouch said testing of the sandbar had already been performed and no radiological contamination was found at the crash site. Crouch confirmed low levels of radiation were found during the nine days that crews worked to remove wreckage of the helicopter off the sandbar. “During the recovery efforts, some aircraft components were found to have a low level of contamination,” Crouch said in a written statement. “All materials found to be contaminated were decontaminated or appropriately contained here on base. All personnel involved in the handling of any contaminated material were screened to verify they were not contaminated.”

In a post accident report obtained by Cox and dated August 31, the Marine Corps notes the release of jet fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid from the downed helicopter, but there’s no mention of strontium-90. David Henkin, chairman of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board, said it’s disappointing the military chose to keep the release of radioactive material a secret, even if it posed no risk to the public. “It’s disappointing that the marines didn’t report that to the community,” said Henkin, a Honolulu attorney. “We’re about to go into the Labor Day weekend and there’s going to be a lot of families out there; we want to make sure that they’re safe.” Cox said the first thing that came to mind after learning about the presence of strontium-90 at the crash site was the welfare of those who rushed to the scene, which included personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Marine Corps and the Honolulu Fire Department. “The biggest concern I had was for the first responders, the City and County of Honolulu fire fighters,” said Cox. “I’m informed that they were not told.”

HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said he could not confirm whether fire fighters knew about the possible presence of a radiological substance while headed to the crash site. He said that information would be available Friday at the earliest. Khon2 and other media have been invited to Friday’s inspection of the sandbar by DLNR and state Health Department staff. Look for that report Friday evening.

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