Death papers sought for man who went missing at Grotto

The wife of a Federal Aviation Administration employee who went missing after scuba diving with three other persons at the Grotto last November has filed a petition asking the Superior Court to declare him dead.

Madelyn Ann Jones, a resident of Renton, Washington, asked the court to direct the CNMI Registrar to prepare a death certificate establishing a presumption of death for her husband, John J. Jones, on Nov. 18, 2018.

Madelyn Ann Jones through counsel Rexford C. Kosack, asked the court to issue the order as required to complete a death certificate for her husband.

According to Kosack in the petition, the 65-year-old John J. Jones left behind a wife of 46 years, two children, five grandchildren, and his mother.

John J. Jones worked for FAA for 30 years and his last position was in operations engineering for the NAVAID Support Center. He served for two years in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Marine Corps.

According to reports from the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, John J. Jones went missing while scuba diving at the Grotto with three other persons in the morning of Nov. 18.

The search for John J. Jones was called off several days later.

Kosack said John J. Jones was one of two FAA employees temporarily detailed to Saipan to help repair the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport after it was damaged by Super Typhoon Yutu.

Kosack said John J. Jones and the other FAA employee went diving last Nov. 18 for weekend relaxation. The two entered the waters to scuba dive at the Grotto with two other divers, who were both dive instructors.

Kosack said John J. Jones and the other FAA employee were being led on a dive tour as customers of a diving compnay when they dove that day at the Grotto.

Kosack said that at 9am, the four divers entered the water at the Grotto, submerged and swam together through one of the underwater passages to outside the Grotto.

When the four divers were outside the Grotto, John J. Jones signaled to one of the dive instructors that he was running low on air. At that time, he was about 60 feet below the surface of the ocean.

The dive instructor then used hand signals to inform the other dive instructor and FAA employee that he was low on air and that they should return to the Grotto.

After that, the dive instructor turned back to John J. Jones but he was no longer there.

The other dive instructor and FAA employee swam back into the Grotto through a passage without John J. Jones, as the other FAA employee was also low on air.

The remaining dive instructor swam in the other direction toward the ocean to search for John J. Jones.

The other dive instructor dropped the remaining FAA employee by the buoy inside the Grotto, then swam back through the passage to search for John J. Jones.

Kosack said the two spent about 25 additional minutes searching for John J. Jones, but they did not find him.

Kosack said the two returned to the Grotto, obtained fresh tanks of air and went back outside the Grotto to where they last saw John J. Jones.

“They did not see him there,” Kosack said.

He said the two divers searched up and down the cliffline outside the Grotto, but they were unable to find John J. Jones.

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the DPS searched for Jones for several days. The search was suspended on Nov. 24.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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