DPS and DFEMS call off search

Posted on Oct 31 2019


Five days after the driver of an SUV drove over the Marpi cliff into the sea last Saturday, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services finally called off the search yesterday, and only the vehicle has been found but not the body of the victim.

DPS spokesperson Adrian Pangelinan confirmed that both DPS and DFEMS ended searching the oceans off Banzai Cliff last Tuesday, as per standard protocol, which requires a search to be done for three consecutive days.

Pangelinan also confirmed that the victim’s body has not been found as of yesterday.

The U.S. Coast Guard alone continued its search yesterday. In a statement, it affirmed that the search is ongoing, but public affairs officer Lt. Jonathan Girot did not clarify as of press time as to when the Coast Guard will end its search.

DPS continues to withhold the identity of the victim, saying they are still conducting the next-of-kin notification. Once the next-of-kin notification has been made, the victim’s identity will be released.

DPS received a call late Saturday of an SUV driving over the Marpi cliff line at Banzai Cliff. DPS, together the DFEMS, USGC, and the U.S. Navy, searched the area since Saturday and only found the vehicle underwater on Sunday. No body was found.

The command center of Coast Guard Sector Guam was notified by the Saipan Emergency Operations Center around 7pm last Oct. 26 that DPS was responding to a vehicle that had gone over a cliff into the water in vicinity of Banzai Cliff.

Coast Guard Sector Guam issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, a tool used by the Coast Guard to alert the maritime public of a distress or potential distress situation, while also providing search patterns for the rescue boat crews and an air asset crew,” the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Washington was sent to help with the search on the evening of Oct. 26, 2019.

So far, search efforts have covered about 434 square-nautical miles (about 575 square miles) over the course of five days, the USCG statement added.

On the first day of the search last Saturday, DPS officers noticed damage to World War II monuments and car parts around the cliff line. Officers also noticed items that appeared to be clothing and a bag drifting in the current.

A video of the floating items later surfaced on social media. DPS and DFEMS rescue boats were deployed and they searched the area Saturday, but it was later called off due to rough waters and it was already getting dark.

Search efforts continued on Sunday with DPS divers twice searching the waters off the cliff, while DPS and DFEMS rescue boats coordinated with the USCG and the U.S. Navy. Banzai Cliff was closed off Sunday as DPS, DFEMS, USCG, and the U.S. Navy continued the search for the victim.

Rescue teams were able retrieve the vehicle from the water, but no victim was found in it. The search was called off at 5pm Sunday.

Search efforts continued on Monday, with DPS boats and its Search and Rescue Unit searching further north and at Wing Beach, while USCG helicopters searched the oceans within the scene. No victim was found and searches were called off.

Marc Venus | Reporter
Marc Venus is the Saipan Tribune's public health and education reporter. He has an associate degree in Applied Sciences in Computer Applications and is working on his bachelor’s degree at the Northern Marianas College. Contact him at marc_venus@saipantribune.com.

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