MOD admits cancer death of RAF pilot was related to military service (2024)

A decorated RAF pilot who completed seven tours of Afghanistan died of cancer because of his military service, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

Squadron Leader Kai Macnaughton, 53, who was still serving in the military at the time, died just three weeks after he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of blood vessel cancer.

He had been exposed to the toxic exhaust fumes of Puma and Chinook helicopters while on special forces operations for over two decades.

MrMacnaughton's widow, Clare, became convinced this was what had caused her husband's cancer after she spoke to others who had also been diagnosed while serving on military helicopters.

She told The Times the Ministry of Defence's admission that his cancer wascaused by the toxic fumes he was exposed to was 'vindication' for what she had believed all along.

She said the verdict was 'important because it paves the way for civil action. It’s also gives me a sense of closure and vindication for Kai.'

Late Squadron Leader Kai Macnaughton pictured with his wife Clare

Squadron Leader Kai Macnaughton, 53, who was still serving in the military at the time, died just three weeks after he was diagnosed with a rare form of blood vessel cancer

Mr Macnaughton began flying for the RAF in the 1990s in his early 20s but wasdiagnosed with cancer in February last year and died soon after in March.

The MOD has not admitted any fault but MrsMacnaughton said she is considering pursuing a civil case against them for not warning her husband about the risks associated with serving on the helicopters.

Read More Family of RAF sergeant claim her deadly cancer was caused by toxic fumes from Chinook helicopters

She has also now been told she is entitled to a war widows pension as her 'husband's passing was service related'.

It comes after the father of RAF sergeant Anna Irwin who died from lung cancer at the age of 38 in October 2017 called for an inquiry into the effects of toxic fume exposure.

Her father Mick told The Times last month: 'Why did my daughter have to go through what she went through? It could have all been avoided if they had taken action.

'As far as I can see this is still happening and no one is doing anything about it.'

Ms Irwin was honoured by King Charles for her heroics against the Taliban but was exposed to more than 2,000 hours of toxic fumes whilst onboard RAF Chinook helicopters.

Ms Irwin was a Chinook crewman who was first posted to 18 (B) Squadron at RAF Odiham in 2007 but was later deployed to Afghanistan.

She was presented with the award for 'Most Outstanding Airman' by King Charles at The Sun's Military Awards in 2013 after she helped rescue eight soldiers after a suicide bomb attack on their base.

Ms Irwin was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in 2016 despite never being a smoker nor there being any other obvious environmental causes.

Anna Irwin (pictured) died from lung cancer at the age of 38 in October 2017 after serving eight three-month tours in Afghanistan

She was exposed to more than 2,000 hours of toxic fumes whilst onboard RAF Chinook helicopters. Pictured: Her coffin is carried by troops at her funeral

Pictured: A file photo of an RAF Chinook helicopter returning to base

Mr Irwin described his daughter as a 'fighter' who 'wanted to live' and 'fought all the way through'. Pictured: Anna Irwin's coffin is carried at her funeral

There are currently around 100 people looking to bring legal action against the MOD who either say toxic fumes caused their cancer or that of loved ones.

Leading barrister at Normanton Chambers, Jonathan Dingle, said engine jet efflux gases - containing benzene carcinogens - 'were apparently being sucked through the cabin and out again through the co*ckpits - mixing as the air which everyone onboard the aircraft was breathing'.

Mr Dingle said: 'The Germans knew about it roughly the same time and installed longer exhaust options on some of their aircraft to draw the exhaust away.'

Read More Ministry of Defence accepts responsibility for veterans who suffered hearing loss in service

However, those aircrew serving in the British military 'were not provided with masks or filters or purified air or any form of filtration system. They were not warned about the whole system,' he said.

An MoD Spokesperson previously said: 'We hugely value our service personnel and veterans and owe a debt of gratitude to all those who serve, often with great personal sacrifice.

'We continually review our policies to ensure they are aligned with good practice and protect our people from harm.

'Service personnel and veterans who believe they have suffered ill health due to service from 6 April 2005 have the existing and long standing right to apply for no-fault compensation under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.'

MailOnline has contacted the MOD for further comment.

The MOD's admission that toxic fume exposure caused cancer in some military personnel comes after it also accepted responsibility for the hearing loss suffered by former armed forces personnel in a 'groundbreaking' agreement at the High Court.

The Ministry of Defence has accepted responsibility for the hearing loss suffered by former armed forces personnel(pictured: MoD headquarters in London)

At a hearing on Monday, lawyers for the MoD accepted that it had a 'duty of care' towards personnel amid legal claims brought by former members of the armed forces who suffered from hearing loss, having disputed this in earlier legal action.

The agreement applies only to those who have served in regular or reserve armed forces since 1987 but does not apply to civilian military staff or cadets.

While the MoD accepts that noise exposure during service caused hearing loss among former personnel, it may dispute the extent to which this happened in individual cases.

That issue, and others in contention in relation to the claims, are due to be decided at a trial involving several 'test cases', which is expected to be held between October and December 2025.

MOD admits cancer death of RAF pilot was related to military service (2024)

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