Rates of PTSD, asthma significantly higher in navy sub crew 15 years after fire

Crew members who were on board a navy submarine that caught fire 15 years ago suffered significantly higher rates of PTSD, asthma and depression, according to a military health survey. 

Sixty per cent of the 56-person crew of the HMCS Chicoutimi were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the fire that killed one sailor, Lieut. Chris Saunders, and injured several crew. 

Another 21 per cent were diagnosed with asthma and 15 per cent were diagnosed with depression.

50 per cent of the crew were deemed medically unfit to sail after the fire. 

The sailors were compared to two control groups, including 42 people who did work on the submarine and were exposed to its interior after the fire and 152 randomly selected submariners.

Just one per cent of those control group sailors were diagnosed with PTSD and two per cent were diagnosed with asthma and depression. 

The results of the health survey were released in Halifax on Thursday. It studied the long-term health effects of the crew after the submarine flooded and caught fire off Ireland on Oct. 5, 2004.

Just days earlier, the sub had left Faslane Naval Base in Scotland after undergoing a refit and was heading to its new home port at CFB Halifax. The submarine was one of four purchased by Canada from the British government in 1998. 

Nine crew members were said to have suffered smoke inhalation at the time. 

Last year, the submarine was deployed to Asia to re-establish naval relationships with Asian nations.

A briefing is being held at Canadian Forces Base Halifax starting at 2:30 p.m. AT. You can follow live updates from CBC reporters in the liveblog below:

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