Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Tammiku stolen source, 1994

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 19 November 2011

Date: 21 October-18 November 1994

Location: Tammiku, Estonia

Type of event: stolen source


On 21 October a cesium-137 source was stolen from a radioactive waste facility by three brothers. One of them had picked up the source when it fell out of a metal block and placed it in his jacket pocket. He took the source to his home and hung his jacket, containing the source, in a hallway, already feeling ill. On 25 October he was hospitalized and died 2 November; the cause of death was diagnosed as kidney failure, and no radiation injury was recognized at this time. On 9 November the man's stepson found the source in the jacket and moved it to a kitchen drawer. On 17 November the child was hospitalized with burns which were recognized as radiation burns by hospital staff. The staff notified authorities, who found the source in the house on 18 November. The man who carried the source home received a 183,000 rad dose to his thigh and a 4,000 rad whole-body dose. Of the other perpetrators, one received a 1,200-2,000 rad dose to his hands, causing injury and the other a whole body dose of less than 100 rad, causing mild radiation sickness. The three other residents of the house were injured: the child received a dose of 360-400 rads, with localized dose to the hands of 2,500 rad, requiring amputation of the fingers on one hand; the man's mother received a whole body dose of 225-400 rad and developed moderate radiation sickness, and the man's wife received a whole body dose of 50-100 rad. A dog that slept near the source indoors also died. Investigators reconstructed doses in locations around the house and narrowed down the timetable of the source's location based on thermoluminescence analysis of household ceramic pots, along with electron spin resonance analysis of medicines and sugars.

Consequences: 1 fatality, 4 injuries.


© 2004-2008, 2011 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 19 November 2011.
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