First lawsuit by families over Red Hill tainted water accuses military of silencing doctors

Four military families sickened by the Navy’s tainted water last year are now suing the U.S. government.
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:28 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four military families sickened by the Navy’s tainted water last year are now suing the U.S. government.

In this first lawsuit by military families, the lawsuit alleges medical negligence, failure to treat, delayed care, and emotional distress. It also accuses the military of silencing its frontline doctors.

Nastasia and Navy Ensign Koda Freeman were living at Aliamanu Military Reservation when the Red Hill fuel leaks tainted the tap water Thanksgiving weekend, sickening their family.

“We were dealing with children vomiting,” said Nastasia Freeman.

She says a doctor at Tripler Army Medical Center told her the contaminated water may have sparked frequent seizures as a result of a preexisting seizure disorder that had eased for a couple years.

“In Hawaii, it was really bad. I would walk into walls,” she said.

“The correlation between the two actually came from a physician there that illness or exposure to certain elements like jet fuel, now this was pretty early on, can cause a flare up,” Freeman added.

Koda Freeman says they worry about cancer.

“My wife was getting worse and worse and worse. It was like an everyday conversation to almost prepare myself for her not be be here,” said Koda Freeman, holding back emotions.

Just a week and a half ago, their 12-year-old son Noah was hospitalized in California after being sickened in Hawaii.

“He woke up and he couldn’t stand. He couldn’t stand on his own without being in excruciating pain,” said Koda Freeman.

Also part of the lawsuit are Jamie Simic, a former resident at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam; Army Major Amanda Feindt, who lived at Ford Island; and Ariana Wyatt, who lived at Hickam.

They’re demanding accountability and better health care for their sickened families.

In March, the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s surgeon and senior medical officer said the fuel exposure was temporary.

“We have no evidence to suggest there’s ongoing acute exposure or symptoms related to the water distribution system,” said Capt. Michael McGinnis.

“Certainly stress can manifest in physical symptoms that’s something to consider,” he added.

Attorneys accuse the military of silencing its frontline doctors.

“We have statements from the toxicologist at Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) who said at the time, no we shouldn’t give any testing or labs because it would be opening pandora’s box,” said Kristina Baehr of Just Well Law.

Baehr wouldn’t say how much monetary damages they are seeking.

“The Navy does not discuss details of or provide status updates on specific claims. The Navy is focused on ensuring the safety and health of those impacted from the November 2021 fuel spill. Nothing is more important than the health, safety, and well-being of our people, their families, and our community neighbors. Providing clean, safe, drinking water to our families and communities, and ensuring their continued health and safety concerns are addressed are our highest priorities,” said Navy Region Hawaii in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice will have 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.