Chemical catch sickens fishermen

Four New Bedford fishermen were hospitalized Monday after hauling up a container of dangerous chemicals while fishing off Long Island.

New Bedford Fire Chief Brian Faria told that the chemical is believed to be some sort of nerve agent, possibly mustard gas. Faria also said he believes the canisters date back to World War I.

The fishermen were aboard the ESS Pursuit, which was clam dredging when the canisters were pulled up.

Kevin O’Sullivan, one of the fishermen on the boat, told that the canisters resembled a large bullet, adding that it’s not uncommon to dredge up curiosities from the sea.

Coat Guard spokesman Jeff Hall agreed.

“There's places all over the country where they've dumped munitions in the past,” Hall told, describing an April incident in which another clam boat brought in a haul of active World War I-era grenades to the Wright Street shellfish plant.

Mustard gas is a chemical agent. Symptoms of mustard gas exposure include skin redness, itching and blistering, eye irritation, digestive issues and respiratory problems, including shortness of breath.

Shortly after bringing the canisters aboard, O’Sullivan told, a crew member noticed one of the canister had a crack in it and appeared to be leaking. The crew member, later identified as Konstantin Burndshov, had blisters on his arm and was taken from the dock to the hospital.

O’Sullivan, along with two other crew members, had to be hospitalized.

Coast Guard officials said the canisters would be tested.