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Formaldehyde likely caused Gorch Fock sailor's weight gain

The Local · 11 Feb 2011, 10:32

Published: 11 Feb 2011 10:32 GMT+01:00

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Earlier this week, daily Bild reported that a navy investigation had found that Sara Lena Seele, whose death last November set off what has been called a “mutiny” on the ship, was overweight and should not have participated in the climbing exercise that led to her death.

The report said that Seele’s height-weight ratio – she was 1.58 meters and weighed 83 kilos (5’2”, 187 lbs.) – should have excluded her from strenuous duty on board ship.

The report also declared she was unfit for duty.

But the 25-year-old’s family has vehemently disputed the report.

“My daughter never weighed 83 kilos,” her mother told Bild on Friday. “When she left Germany it was not more than 60 kilos.”

The massive weight gain in the navy investigative report may have actually occurred after the cadet’s death, when Brazilian doctors preserved her body with formaldehyde for the trip back to Germany, Bild reported.

Apparently the treatment was necessary because the plane transporting the body had no cooling facility, the paper said.

Experts told Bild the body would have likely been filled with some 10 to 15 kilos of formaldehyde, which could account for why the autopsy reported her weight to be 83 kilos.

“The navy investigators took the number – perhaps without asking how the proportionally high body weight could be clarified,” the paper wrote

Seele fell some 27 metres during a rigging exercise while the ship was in the Brazilian port of Salvador de Bahia. She died later at a nearby hospital.

Story continues below…

The Gorch Fock, a tall ship that was once the pride of the German navy, has since been the centre of allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and the all-around bad behaviour of its officers, who reportedly spent much of their time on the ship sunbathing and partying.

Both Seele’s death and the conditions on the vessel are under investigation. The ship has been ordered to return to Germany from South America.

The Local/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:05 February 11, 2011 by Kayak
The mindset goes like this;

"All I need to do to pass this test and to be successfull in Germany is to do as I'm told and follow the rules. I must not question authority. In the form it says Gewicht = 83 kilograms, therefore she weighs 83 kilograms. There is no problem. I have done my work correctly. I am good."
12:23 February 11, 2011 by anne k
Didn't any of the investigators ever look at a photo of the girl?
13:28 February 11, 2011 by BR549
This story is getting older and stranger daily.....
23:46 February 11, 2011 by pepsionice
I will say this about German chow halls....you can gain weight there if you aren't careful. I ate breakfast daily at a German chow hall for two years, and I'd give it a four-star rating but I probably gained a couple of pounds from that experience.
01:09 February 12, 2011 by wood artist
While I can understand the presence of the preservative, I must wonder why the doctor performing the autopsy didn't notice. A little bit might have been overlooked, but in this case, with this amount, it should have been pretty obvious, and it's unlikely the tissues that contained it looked "normal." Considering the fall, she would have had serious injuries, and most likely some internal bleeding, but this stuff should have been flooding out.

Strange they didn't think to consider that.

09:45 February 12, 2011 by LiberalGuy
This story just seems to keep going and going. It'a been a real comedy of errors in both the invsetigation and the reporting. Maybe it's time to put it to bed till something sensible comes out.
10:38 February 12, 2011 by readnow
mmmmm ... the fact that they mention too much partying etc. very suspicious .. sexual harassment ... could write a book
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