Friday, September 02, 2011


Kaneohe Sandbar helicopter crash site to be checked today for stronium-90 contamination

According to [Environmental activist Carroll ] Cox, there is no evidence rescue personnel who rushed to the scene of the crash were told about the possibility of encountering radioactive material.

“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.””—from KHON report (9/1/2011)

by Larry Geller

If you were planning to go out to the popular Kaneohe Sandbar this weekend, best to check first with KHON on the results of testing to be performed today to detect any radioactive contamination as a result of a marine helicopter crash.

KHON and the Star-Advertiser ran stories on the possible release of strontium-90 during a helicopter crash on the Kaneohe Sandbar on March 29. The Star-Advertiser story is not available on the web—Google News only turned up the KHON article by reporter Andrew Pereira. Strontium-90 is used as part of a helicopter blade safety system. Of course, that means that radioactive contamination is a possibility in the event a helicopter crashes, as one did on March 29, resulting in one death and three injuries.

According to the KHON report, the concern for radioactive contamination is justified. Radioactivity was detected on parts of the helicopter that crashed:

“During the recovery efforts, some aircraft components were found to have a low level of contamination,” [Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman Maj. Alan] 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.”

Both articles correctly stated that strontium-90 is a carcinogen that is absorbed by human bones, but the newspaper article then attempted to belittle the danger by comparing the radiation level detected to chest x-rays.

This is the usual official cover-up route and should not be tolerated or propagated in modern reporting. The danger is not merely from standing next to a bit of strontium-90 and experiencing its direct radiation, as though it were an x-ray machine. The danger is primarily from ingestion or inhalation of even a small quantity of the substance, which then radiates the body internally until cancer results. KHON, to their credit, did not engage in that deception.

KHON also reported that there will be a further inspection today (Friday) of the sandbar prior to the Labor Day holiday when the sandbar is expected to be crowded with families including children.

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.

Most likely, given the span of time since the crash, any contamination has washed into the waters of Kaneohe Bay.

Here is a case where the absence of our Honolulu newspaper from the web is a public disservice. Unless they carry the report on breaking news (which they do allow to be indexed by Google), the report won’t be available.

So check KHON before planning your party, and thanks to Andrew Pereira for a balanced report on this issue.


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