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March 11, 2008
HMCS Chicoutimi Submariners' Compensation Claims
"Three and a half years after a fatal submarine fire,
surviving crew of HMCS Chicoutimi are falling ill with debilitating conditions
severe enough to force some of them out of the navy. . . .Many of the
men and their families have battled bureaucrats over pension entitlements and
had documented compensation claims rejected."
Submariners blame fire on Chicoutimi for illness
Debilitating symptoms forced some from navy Murray Brewster
The Canadian Press
HALIFAXThree and a half years after a fatal submarine
fire, surviving crew of HMCS Chicoutimi are falling ill with debilitating
conditions severe enough to force some of them out of the navy.
Researchers, who only recently analyzed the noxious
substances in the smoke that crew inhaled during the electrical fire, have yet
to determine the impact on long-term health.
Many of the men and their families have battled bureaucrats
over pension entitlements and had documented compensation claims rejected.
"I know a lot of guys, their health is getting worse," said
Denis Lafleur, a former petty officer who was among the most severely injured.
"Nobody has been willing to come forward and admit what was burned on the
Almost half the 56 men who battled to save their sub from
the fire in stormy seas off Ireland in October 2004 have been discharged, will
soon leave the military, or are on the medically disabled list.
"It's hard to look in the mirror," said one sailor, among
more than a half-dozen who agreed to lengthy interviews with The Canadian
Press. "I am a walking shell of what I once was. I was at the peak of my
fitness before the fire. I was the healthiest I had been in my whole life and
now I am half the person I was."
Sailors still serving spoke on the condition their names
not be used. The handful of survivors who agreed to come forward brought with
them health documentation and letters to back up their claims.
Many in the crew have been diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress. Some have developed severe breathing difficulties, preventing them from
climbing a flight of stairs. Some have had fainting spells and short-term
memory loss. Others have developed chronic conditions, such as asthma. There
are also neurological disorders.
All of those interviewed blame their illnesses on exposure
to the noxious smoke and grey soot left over from the fire, which crippled the
used British submarine during its maiden voyage to Canada. Many on the sub
spent five days living in soot as the ship was towed to safety.
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