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Theft of the sourceOn 13 September 1987, the security guard in charge of daytime security, Voudireinão da Silva, did not show up to work, using a sick day to attend a cinema screening of Herbie Goes Bananas with his family. That same day, scavengers Roberto dos Santos Alves and Wagner Mota Pereira entered the partially demolished facility, found the teletherapy unit, which they thought might have some scrap value, placed it in a wheelbarrow and took it to Alves' home, about 0.6 km north of the clinic. There, they partly dismantled the equipment, taking the billiard ball-sized caesium capsule out of the protective rotating head. The gamma radiation emitted by the capsule's iridium window nauseated the men and within a day or so, the two men became ill, experiencing vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness. The clinic's diagnosis was that the men were suffering an allergic reaction caused by eating bad food. The two continued their efforts to dismantle the unit, eventually rupturing the source capsule and exposing the radioactive material. The exposure eventually caused localized burns to their bodies and one later had to have an arm amputated.A few days later one man broke open the iridium window which allowed him to see the caesium chloride emitting a deep blue light.The exact mechanism by which the light was generated was not known at the time the IAEA report was written. The light is thought to be either fluorescence or Cherenkov radiation associated with the absorption of moisture by the source; similar blue light was observed in 1988 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the disencapsulation of a 137Cs source. The man scooped out some of the radioactive caesium and tried to light it, thinking it was gunpowder, and eventually gave up.The source is sold and dismantledOn September 18 Roberto dos Santos Alves and Wagner Mota Pereira sold the items to a nearby scrapyard. That night the owner, Devair Alves Ferreira, went in the garage and saw the blue glow from the caesium capsule. Over the next three days he invited friends and family to view the strange glowing substance. Ferreira intended to make a ring for his wife, Gabriela Maria Ferreira, out of the material.Several people who visited the home came into contact with the dust and spread it around the local neighborhood and to other towns nearby. Ferreira's ownership led to many people becoming contaminated. A brother of the scrapyard owner used the dust to paint a blue cross on his abdomen. He also contaminated the animals at his farm, several of which died. At this scrapyard, a friend of Ferreira's (given as EF1 in the IAEA report) hammered open the lead casing. On 25 September 1987, Devair Alves Ferreira sold the scrap metal to another scrapyard. He survived the incident.
Health outcomesAbout 130,000 people overwhelmed hospitals. Of those, 250 people, some with radioactive residue still on their skin, were found, through the use of Geiger counters, to be contaminated. Eventually, 20 people showed signs of radiation sickness and required treatment.Ages in years are given, with dosages listed in Gy, or Gray.FatalitiesLeide das Neves Ferreira, aged 6 (6.0 Gy, 600 REM), was the daughter of Ivo Ferreira. Initially, when an international team arrived to treat her, she was confined to an isolated room in the hospital because the hospital staff were afraid to go near her. She gradually developed swelling in the upper body, hair loss, kidney and lung damage, and internal bleeding. She died on October 23, 1987, of "septicemia and generalized infection" at the Marcilio Dias Navy Hospital, in Rio de Janeiro, as a result of the contamination. She was buried in a common cemetery in Goiania, in a special fiberglass coffin lined with lead to prevent the spread of radiation. There was a riot in the cemetery, where over 2,000 people armed with stones and bricks tried to prevent her burial.Gabriela Maria Ferreira, aged 38 (5.7 Gy, 550 REM), wife of junkyard owner Devair Ferreira, became sick about three days after coming into contact with the substance. Her condition worsened and she developed internal bleeding, especially in the limbs, eyes, and digestive tract, and suffered from hair loss. She died 23 October 1987, about a month after exposure.Israel Baptista dos Santos, aged 22 (4.5 Gy, 450 REM), was an employee of Devair Ferreira who worked on the radioactive source primarily to extract the lead. He developed serious respiratory and lymphatic complications, was eventually admitted to hospital, and died 6 days later on 27 October 1987.Admilson Alves de Souza, aged 18 (5.3 Gy, 500 REM), was also an employee of Devair Ferreira who worked on the radioactive source. He developed lung damage, internal bleeding, and heart damage, and died 18 October 1987.