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Scott G. Winterton, KSL, File

Utah woman says blasting paint off HAFB jets caused husband’s death

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Dec. 31, 2019 at 7:34 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman whose husband died of cancer after years of blasting paint and rust off military aircraft has sued the U.S. Air Force.

Cynthia McKenney Craft claims in a federal lawsuit that coatings on the airplanes, which included cadmium and chrome 6, caused the cancerous growths on his lungs, kidneys and adrenal glands that took his life.

Richard McKenney, 61, of Layton, died in August 2017 two years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He worked in the blast shop at Hill Air Force Base removing paint, rust and corrosion from aircraft for more than 15 years.

“Despite following all base and shop protocols, anyone, including Mr. McKenney, doing blast work in the blast shop on aircraft on a daily basis, week after week, year after year, is going to be exposed one way or the other to cadmium, chrome 6 and other substances,” according to the suit filed in U.S. District in Salt Lake City.

Cadmium and chrome 6 are known carcinogens, the suit says.

Prior to working at Hill, McKenney had few of the risk factors associated with cancer, including that he didn’t smoke, drink and had never used illicit drugs and that his family had no history of cancer, the lawsuit says.

That at least two of McKenney’s co-workers also died of cancer is “strong evidence” of a causal connection to his case, according to the lawsuit. The suit also says McKenney’s doctors believe there is a link between his exposure to the hazardous substances and his getting cancer.

According to the lawsuit, Craft used her husband’s life insurance check to replace carpets, floors, beds and linens and for other things like cleaning the duct work in the house that were contaminated with the dust McKenney brought home on his clothes and shoes every day. She also cleaned and sold his car.

The suit seeks to recover the money Craft spent to replace her property as well as damages for financial stress and physical and psychological distress.

Craft filed a wrongful death suit against aircraft manufacturers General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin in state court earlier this month. The two defense contractors build airplanes based and maintained at Hill.

Dennis Romboy

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