Deadly helmet from Chernobyl fireman goes missing sparking contamination fears

A new documentary about the radioactive ghost town of Chernobyl has exposed a problem with contamination due to trespassers pinching "trophies" from the disaster – such as one hero fireman's helmet.

TV presenter Ben Fogle was exploring the exclusion zone in Ukraine which is still untouched decades after the catastrophic nuclear reactor explosion in 1986.

During the Channel 5 show, Inside Chernobyl with Ben Fogle, he is taken on a tour around the abandoned hospital in Pripyat where firefighters with acute radiation sickness and burns were treated before their deaths.

Ben described the atmosphere as "chilling" as he walked through corridors with peeling paint and deserted equipment and furniture, including rusting baby cribs.

Underground, there is an even darker secret buried in the hospital basement.

Ben's guide Nikoli, a government-sanctioned expert, explains that the firefighters' gear and clothing were put down there and people later trespassed into the exclusion zone to record footage and get morbid keepsakes.

The hole has recently been filled in, but there is footage of what was left underneath the hospital.

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Nikoli shows footage of people he suspects are "trespassers" wearing hazmat suits and walking through the basement where he says the levels of radiation are "insanely high".

A handheld Gieger counter shoots "off the scale" and the camera shows a discarded boot in the background.

Nikoli warns: "The main risk is not even the dose of radiation down there, it's the dust.

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"All those tiny particles of radioactive material, if you ingest any of those, even microscopic ones you cannot see, they are capable of killing a human being."

Ben asks: "What about the firefighter's helmets, were they down there?"

"There was one helmet," says Nikoli regretfully, explaining that it was missing and presumed to have been taken by one of the "show-offs" who trespass in Pripyat.

"So somewhere out there is a highly reactive fireman's helmet?" says Ben.

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Nikoli says he sincerely hopes the helmet hasn't been taken out of the zone because radiation is so deadly and yet impossible to detect with taste and smell.

The zone around Chernobyl's exploded reactor will remain uninhabitable for at least 20,000 years according to scientists, a sobering reminder of the danger of nuclear disasters.

Inside Chernobyl with Ben Fogle airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.

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