LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – A former military police officer says damage from a chlorine bomb he investigated scarred his lungs so badly he cannot find work. He’s going to tell a judge about it when the former soldier who set off the weapon is sentenced this month.
Joshua Farbro was the lead investigator when unscheduled explosions went off in a training area outside Fort Polk on April 12, 2017.
He was gathering samples for testing when “my hands began burning and when I looked down I saw that my latex gloves were literally melting away,” he told The American Press . “It was right after that I felt a shortness of breath and dizziness, and after that I passed out.”
He will testify Sept. 24 in the sentencing of 25-year-old Ryan Keith Taylor, who pleaded guilty in June to making and detonating explosives that released chlorine gas in a forest near the Army base. The maximum sentence would be life in prison.
In April 2017, Farbro was a SWAT team leader and sniper and an instructor at the local law enforcement academy, with plans to qualify for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“In one single day I went from being in peak physical fitness to having 20 percent lung capacity at 25 years old,” Farbro said. “My military career was over and now I’m told that I’m too much of a medical liability to be considered for employment in any capacity. Everything I had worked so hard for, given my all for, was ripped away from me.”
Doctors at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital diagnosed chemical burns to his throat and lungs, Farbro said, but before the chemicals were identified his throat and right lung had collapsed, eroded by the chemicals.
“I was on 16 different medications and four inhalers at one time just to keep my throat passage open and attempt to heal the damage. One doctor looked at me and told me that it was a miracle I was even alive,” Farbro said.
He had a throat tissue transplant and reconstructive surgery on his larynx this year, and still has scars throughout both lungs. Doctors have told him he may need a lung transplant some day, but the operation could spread worse damage, he’s been told.
“Because my lungs are not fully functioning, they can’t expel the chemicals that are still inside of them,” Farbro said. “The doctors have told me that they are afraid if they open up my chest the chemicals could spread to the rest of my body.”
The gas also destroyed nerves connecting Farbro’s throat muscles to his brain, so that the slightest stress can cause his throat to collapse.
“With every breath I take I walk back through that day and every one of the steps I took. I wonder every time if there was just one thing I could have done differently to avoid all of this,” he said.
Farbro said he wants Taylor to pay for stealing his life and career, but wants even more to make sure the judge and others to fully understand Taylor’s dangerous intentions.
Authorities have said detectives found a pipe bomb and other bomb materials in his apartment in New Llano.
“I have heard people talk about this case and people just don’t think it was that big of a deal. I want the judge to know that this is a big deal – even if I’m the only victim with permanent damage,” Farbro stated.
“This could have been so much worse; this could have been horrible. I want people to understand that.”