Ex-colleague: Brian Simmons you knew — mentally ill after workplace radiation exposure — not real Brian Simmons

Brian Simmons, who had a history of unusual behavior around Maricopa, died in a shootout with police in August. [Facebook]


This is an open letter to the people of Maricopa who knew Brian Simmons or who followed his story.

I am Ralph Stanton. I was Brian’s friend and coworker. We worked at the Zero Power Physics Reactor Facility as Nuclear Facility Operators at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The people of Maricopa need to know that Brian’s bizarre and schizophrenic behavior was far beyond his control. On Nov. 8, 2011, Brian and I, along with 14 of our coworkers, were exposed to an uncontrolled airborne release of Plutonium-239 and Americium-241. Since Brian and I were at the point of the release, our exposures were much higher than our coworkers.

Due to the level of our exposure, we were put into modest clothing and taken to the site medical facility to have our blood drawn for a CBC count. This is proper medical protocol to verify the severity of the exposure. Our CBC counts revealed that our white blood cells had dropped to 50% in less than six hours following our exposure.

Our blood markers revealed two things to medical personnel that night. First, according to the REAC/TS medical training manual used by our employer, Battelle Energy Alliance, we were in a potentially lethal situation. Second, the same blood markers revealed that we were experiencing Acute Radiation Syndrome or radiation poisoning.

Knowing that this exposure gave us bone-marrow suppression by our CBC counts and put us in danger of infection, BEA sent us home to ride it out, where we were very sick, vomiting with severe nausea and diarrhea. The following day, when Brian and I met with the lead medical doctor for BEA, we told him that we had been up all night vomiting with nausea and diarrhea. Without any test or pause, the company doctor then told us both that we had influenza. He added that since we carpooled together, one of us already had it and gave it to the other one, but neither Brian nor I were sick before the exposure.

Unfortunately, Brian nor I had any idea what our blood count meant or that our medical symptoms were radiologically induced. In fact, it was years later before we discovered it.

BEA knew that our radiological injuries were severe. The radiological release that caused these injuries was due to BEA’s gross or willful negligence. This situation brought the potential of civil or criminal liability to BEA. [Simmons filed suit against the company and it was settled.] The only way to mitigate that liability was for our employer, BEA, to falsify our final dose assignments showing very low exposures. The mitigation of this liability also meant that the INL medical department could not treat or acknowledge that any of our clinical symptoms were due to the ZPPR exposure.

I can tell you this with confidence, that this high-level, untreated exposure led to Brian’s mental illness because of the many studies done on the correlation of schizophrenia and suppressed white blood-cell counts. Due to the monitoring of the ARS Chernobyl survivors, we know that ALL of them developed mental illness. Several of the Chernobyl ARS survivors developed schizophrenia five to 10 years after their exposures, like Brian did. As an ARS survivor myself in the ZPPR accident, I developed a mental illness along with many other medical issues tied to this exposure.

After this exposure, Brian withdrew completely from his family and friends, and he started to decline mentally.

I had not talked to Brian for at least five years when he called me out of the blue about a month before his death. It was the same voice but a completely different person. When I saw the pictures on the news of his belongings strewn across his yard and driveway, I realized how bad off he was.

Before this exposure, Brian was very intelligent, organized, happy, full of life with a bright future ahead of him. I had been to Brian’s house many times over the years I worked with him, finding his home very clean and organized and his yard manicured. Brian was very close to his family and looked forward to having children of his own, but after the exposure he knew that being a father was no longer a choice for him.

Brian’s life was cut short due to greed. I wish the people of Maricopa who knew Brian would have had the chance to know him before the exposure because you would have loved him and respected him as many others and I did.

Ralph Stanton

Idaho Falls, Idaho