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Rocker Says Field Lab Caused Daughter's Death

Lawsuit: Motley Crue singer sues Boeing over alleged toxic dumping at facility near his Chatsworth home.

August 18, 1999|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The lead singer for Motley Crue has sued Boeing North American Inc. claiming that his daughter's death by cancer in 1995 was caused by radioactive material dumped in the soil and ground water near his former home near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

Vince Neil and his ex-wife, Sharise, bought a home in Chatsworth in 1991, a few miles east of Boeing's Rocketdyne Division. Boeing acquired the property in 1996 when it bought Rockwell International's aerospace and defense businesses.

The suit claims that Boeing, Rockwell and Rocketdyne knowingly dumped hazardous materials, such as plutonium and uranium, near the Neils' Summit Ridge Circle residence southeast of Simi Valley.

Their 4-year-old daughter, Skylar, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in April 1995 and died four months later. The suit claims that her death came "as a direct result of the activities conducted by defendants."

One of Boeing's chief attorneys, Gary M. Black, said Tuesday that he had not seen the suit and would not comment on its allegations.

"We haven't been served with a complaint yet," Black said. "We have no reason to think the allegations in this complaint are any different from allegations in other pending cases."

Black concluded by saying: "There is no evidence that there is any off-site contamination from the Santa Susana field lab that is harmful to anyone in any way."

Neil's suit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles late last week. It is the latest legal action brought against Rocketdyne and its Seattle-based parent company for alleged harm caused to neighbors and their property.

A class-action case is pending in federal court. It contends that decades of nuclear research and rocket engine testing fouled the water, air and soil surrounding the 2,700-acre field lab, and could compromise the health of nearby residents.

Neil, who sold his house in 1994 and now lives in Beverly Hills, was touring with his band in New Mexico and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

His Beverly Hills attorney, David M. Cordrey, said the singer only recently learned about toxic contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory after a Rocketdyne worker health study was released by UCLA researchers in April.

At about the same time, Cordrey said, Neil's ex-wife received a notice to potential plaintiffs that was mailed in connection with the class-action suit.

"I think basically he just became aware of the Rocketdyne alleged activities," said Jeff Albright, Neil's publicist. "I don't think it's about money. I think it is about awareness. No dollar amount can bring Skylar back."

Last month, state officials announced plans to remove 3,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the Rocketdyne lab site.

Located in the hills between Simi Valley and Chatsworth, the lab was opened in 1948 to design the nation's first rocket engines. It was later used to develop model nuclear power reactors, although atomic research was discontinued in 1989.

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