The Department of Public Safety is keeping open the case of the 59-year-old man who was found dead aboard a Matson ship that was en route to Guam.
DPS spokesperson Dre Pangelinan said in a statement that DPS continues to investigate the case because the only documents they received about the body was its COVID-19 test result in Guam, which stated he’s death was not COVID-19-related.
“Authorities on Saipan inspected documents pertaining to the procedures done in Guam, but the only documentation that could be provided pertaining the deceased individual was the documentation stating that the individual tested negative from the virus. Due to no documentation of the time of death or the cause of death, DPS will be conducting further investigation pertaining to this incident,” he said.
Pangelinan also said in a statement to Saipan Tribune that there was no mishandling that happened with the body, just basic protocol.
“There was no mishandling done by DPS. We were notified that there was a deceased body on the vessel that did not have any documentation of time of death or cause of death. Due to that, DPS had to investigate as to why no documentation could be provided. The captain was questioned and crew members were questioned, just as we would have done if any other vessel came in to port under the same circumstances,” he said.
This was in reaction to a Matson Inc. statement that said the body of the crewmember was not handled properly by CNMI authorities and was not shown the respect that Matson and his family expected since they have yet to release the body to the family.
Pursuant to DPS protocols, if an investigation remains ongoing, the body of a deceased person remains under DPS custody at the Commonwealth Health Center.
According to a DPS press release, DPS received transmission via radio at about 12:05pm last Thursday about a dead individual aboard an incoming vessel. Police units immediately responded to the Port of Saipan. At about 12:21pm, police arrived at the dock and interviewed the captain and crew. The captain of the vessel stated that on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at about 4:30pm, he noticed the crew member lying on the floor in his room. He said that the individual had no pulse and was not breathing and he immediately notified other members aboard the ship about the incident. He returned to the room with some crew members and they tried to revive the man, to no avail. The captain also used a flashlight to shine a light on the individual’s eyes to see if their pupils would dilate but it did not. The captain and crew then left the individual in the room until they arrived on Guam the following day, Sept. 9, at about 7am.
The captain of the vessel notified the Guam Police Department, Customs, the Coast Guard, the Guam Fire Department, and the Center for Disease Control. The captain of the vessel stated that personnel from the Guam COVID-19 task force came aboard the vessel and tested the individual for the virus before GFD personnel secured the body of the individual in a body bag and placed it in a refrigerated container.
On Thursday, Sept. 10, at about 11am, the vessel arrived at the Saipan seaport with the body for an autopsy.