Hill Air Force Base F-16

An F-16 prepares for takeoff during an air-to-ground Weapons System Evaluation Program on Aug. 13, 2014.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — A Layton woman has failed in her second attempt to obtain additional compensation for her husband’s death due to cancer-causing chemicals at Hill Air Force Base.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City said in a July 20 memorandum decision that Cynthia McKenney Craft was barred from collecting more damages from the Air Force.

Craft’s husband, Richard McKenney, 61, died Aug. 9, 2017, after working in Hill shops for more than 15 years, using chemicals blasted at high pressure to strip paint from military aircraft.

McKenney died of kidney, lung and adrenal cancer that Craft’s lawsuits said was caused by his long-term exposure to known carcinogens, cadmium and chromium-6.

The chemicals were found in paint from the planes and in the “bead blast” solutions used to strip the aircraft surfaces.

She applied for compensation administratively and was awarded $230,000 in survivor benefits, according to court documents.

The federal Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs in May 2018 found that McKenney’s death “was a direct result of his on-the-job exposure to hazardous chemicals.”

But in July 2019, the Air Force denied Craft’s subsequent claim for compensation for emotional distress and for the financial hardship caused by the cleansing of her home and vehicle from years of chemical residue left over from her husband’s employment.

McKenney’s clothing was contaminated by substances that over the years accumulated in the couple’s home, according to the suit.

Craft “spent most of the life insurance to replace the carpets, floors, beds, linens, clothing in their shared closet, and many other things, like cleaning the duct work in the house,” the suit said.

The suit, filed Dec. 30, 2019, named the Department of the Air Force as the defendant.

But Kimball ruled that federal law limits compensation to that awarded already by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.

Kimball said that mechanism “is the sole remedy for plaintiffs’ personal injury and wrongful death claims based on McKenney’s illness and death.”

Efforts to contact Craft’s attorney, David Holdsworth of Sandy, were not immediately successful Monday.

In August 2018, Holdsworth filed suit in 2nd District Court on Craft’s behalf, accusing General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. of liability for McKenney’s death.

Planes manufactured by the companies include the F-16, F-22, C-130 and F-35, which have been based or maintained at Hill.

However, a state judge later dismissed that suit.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at


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