US soldiers who participated in the mid-60s in the cleaning tasks of Palomares (Spain) will have the right to file a class action lawsuit to be compensated for medical expenses derived from diseases contracted by radioactive debris dropped on the Almeria coast .
In January 1966, a tanker plane and an American B-52 bomber collided over the sky of Palomares, from which four thermonuclear bombs fell, each 75 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima.
Retired Sergeant Major Victor Skaar was one of the 1,600 soldiers who helped clean up a classified nuclear disaster, collecting debris and earth removed with plutonium. Later, many suffered cancer and other ailments and tried unsuccessfully for the federal government to take responsibility and pay for their medical care.
As reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, Skaar mailed letters to the Air Force veterans with whom he had served in Palomares and, under the head of “good news,” informed them that the authorities had finally recognized them the option of being able to file a class action lawsuit on an issue that the Pentagon declared classified.
A lawsuit that Skaar had filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs had been certified as a class action, which means that there is finally an opportunity to settle the case of plutonium dropped in Spain, not only for him but for all the soldiers who They participated more than 50 years ago, many of whom have nonetheless died.
As one of the first cases in which the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims granted class action status, Skaar’s lawsuit represents a major step forward for veterans with long-term health problems linked to toxic exposure in the service.
Until now, even in situations where thousands of soldiers were exposed to dangers such as radioactive consequences or Agent Orange and then faced similar problems, each generally had to deal only with the vast military and veteran bureaucracies.
Skaar, 83, learned during his physical exam in the Air Force in 1982 that his white blood cell count was very high. He has since been fighting for the military to recognize his illness in the service.
“First they told me there were no records, which I knew was a lie because I helped make them,” he told the Times while reviewing brittle and yellowed documents in his office outside Springfield, Missouri.
In a statement this month, the Air Force still maintained its assessment that Palomares troops had not suffered harmful radiation exposure.