Navy veteran fears for health of grandchildren

By Wayne Thompson

NZ Navy veteran Wayne O'Donnell  shows his navy medals and half of a cancerous tumour taken out of his body. Photo / Warren Buckland
NZ Navy veteran Wayne O'Donnell shows his navy medals and half of a cancerous tumour taken out of his body. Photo / Warren Buckland

Wayne O'Donnell was a stoker in the engine room of HMNZS Canterbury in August 1973 when it witnessed a nuclear test at Mururoa Atoll.

Now aged 60, the Hastings businessman has cancerous lumps on the back, shoulder and top of his head but it's the health of his descendants that worries him.

"Within 30 seconds of the blast we were allowed on deck to observe the cloud.

"We saw the cloud - it was an obvious nuclear blast cloud. It was like a mushroom with the stalk.

"After the detonation burst, we zig-zagged and, because of the French miscalculating where the cloud was going, we ended up sailing through it twice.

"It was because of the windshifts - it was not my captain's fault. I hold him in the highest respect.

"But once we got home we were not told how much radiation we had received.

"On the ship we wore 'rad haz' badges - plastic with a monitor inside - and we handed them back for testing but no one knows where they went to."

Mr O'Donnell said he joined the campaign for veterans' compensation when he learned that "a lot of the crew started becoming sick and children were born with abnormalities.

"It's continuing through generations. For example, my granddaughter has issues. She fell off her scooter and broke two legs, one arm and four fingers. That should not happen to a 12-year-old."

Mr O'Donnell said the frigates' crews were put into a dangerous situation.

"I would like to tell the Government you have left it a bit late. There is nothing you can do for me. All I want is for you to put something in place that's going to look after the welfare of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, because at the moment there is nothing." Wayne Thompson

- NZ Herald

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