Large number of alumni from a Bradenton high school battling cancer

BRADENTON, Fla.. (WFLA) – A strange, deadly mystery is brewing in Bradenton. Officials say a large number of people have died from rare cancers, and they’re all alumni from the old Bayshore High School.

They think there’s a connection, and now the school board wants an investigation.

Betty Lou Rocklein beams when she talks about her daughter Denise. Every picture shows Denise with a wide, beautiful grin. She lived life to the fullest with a contagious smile.

But, Denise was masking a terrible pain. In her adult years, Denise developed three different aggressive forms of cancer, and her daughter Shannon was born with a rare brain defect. The two died only months apart, Denise was 46 and Shannon was 15.

The family suspects the culprit may have been contaminated water at Denise’s alma mater, Bayshore High School.

“We’re willing to say that it’s possible, but more investigation needs to be done,” said Rocklein.

Alumni have reported more than 400 cases of cancer or birth defects. Reports have shown the alumni have higher than average numbers of breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma.

The school has since been torn down, but for decades, it relied on well water, and officials said fuel tanks were buried underground nearby.

This week, the school board announced they will support the county commission to investigate these claims.

“If you’re not looking in the right place, you can look everywhere and not find anything. So, perhaps there’s other places we can look or other tests that can be done,” said School Board member Charlie Kennedy.

Rocklein wants this mystery solved so no one else has to endure her pain.

“I don’t get angry at anything, but just like everybody else, we want some answers,” said Rocklein.

Over the past 20 years there have been environmental studies done and no conclusive evidence has been found.

But, these alumni are not quitting, and they’re hoping that soon the county can start a new study to dig deeper and determine if those buried fuel tanks could’ve played a role in this cancer trend.


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