Man drowns at Bird Island

Victim asked girlfriend to take video of him jumping into water, swimming

Tourists go down the stairs at the Bird Island Lookout in Marpi to take photos of the beautiful Bird Island yesterday morning, shortly after Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services swimmers recovered the body of drowning victim Aiwayne Sagun. (Ferdie de la Torre)

In a scene that was caught on video, a man who had jumped into the waters of Bird Island in Marpi on Saturday afternoon was swept out into the ocean by the strong current and was later found to have drowned.

Rescue swimmers from the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services found yesterday morning the body of a 21-year-old man. DFEMS spokesman Derek Gersonde identified the victim as Aiwayne Sagun.

Police said the victim had asked his girlfriend to take a video of him jumping into the water and swimming to shore, but he failed to swim back after the strong current swept him out to open sea.

Gersonde said the DFEMS rescue swimmers found the victim’s body about 15 feet underwater off Bird Island at 8:35am.

Commonwealth Ports Authority’s patrol boat transported the victim’s body to the Smiling Cove Marina, where an ambulance took him to the Commonwealth Health Center. Dr. Neda Farzan pronounced him dead at 9:37am.

Sources said Sagun, an employee of the Department of Public Works, used to be an employee of Shirley’s Coffee Shop, where his girlfriend currently works.

Gersonde stated that DFEMS received a call on Saturday at 3:52pm from the Department of Public Safety’s 911 about a missing swimmer at Bird Island.

A rescue team from the Susupe fire station responded and the DFEMS Search and Rescue Unit was activated.

DFEMS rescue swimmers conducted the search for Sagun around the shoreline and in the waters around Bird Island, with support from DPS Boating Safety boat.

The search ceased at nightfall on Saturday. Rescuers resumed the search early yesterday morning.

DFEMS rescue swimmers initiated their search pattern in the water around Bird Island with support of CPA’s patrol boat.

According to witnesses at the scene, Sagun was last seen Saturday around 1pm. He was with his girlfriend on a sightseeing trip. Apparently, the two had no plans to swim.

DPS spokesman Lt. Jason Tarkong said when police responded to the incident, they met Sagun’s 25-year-old companion.

Tarkong said the two were taking pictures and managed to walk onto Bird Island.

Sagun asked his girlfriend to take a video of him jumping into the water and swimming to shore.

Sagun jumped into the water, but could not swim back to shore because of the strong current. He was last seen drifting further into the sea south of Bird Island.

The girlfriend called 911 for help. DPS dispatched the Zodiac rescue boat and its dive rescue team.

Tarkong said DFEMS Search and Rescue Unit, CPA, and the U.S. Coast Guard were also activated to help in the search.

A security guard told Saipan Tribune he was on duty at the Bird Island Lookout on Saturday and only learned about the missing person when police officers started arriving at the lookout that afternoon.

The guard said he later saw the victim’s female companion, who was crying and taken by the officers to a car.

Sagun is the seventh ocean/beach drowning victim this year on Saipan, according to Saipan Tribune records.

Last Aug. 29, a 33-year-old Korean woman drowned when she and her brother got swept into the ocean while swimming outside the reef at Obyan Beach south of the Saipan International Airport. The brother survived by swimming back inside the reef.

Last July 16, a 26-year-old local man who went fishing with a companion was later found dead due to drowning in the ocean near the Gov. Eloy S. Inos Peace Park in Puerto Rico, Saipan.

Last June 13, a 15-year-old Korean male student reportedly drowned while spearfishing at Sugar Dock in Chalan Kanoa. DFEMS and DPS Boating Section Unit personnel found the boy’s body in the channel.

Last May 4, a 71-year-old Korean man drowned while swimming at the beach of Kensington Hotel in San Roque, while a 50-year-old Japanese man also drowned while scuba diving at Laulau Bay.

Last Jan. 26, 53-year-old Isidro Wabol, who had gone swimming, was later found dead outside the reef at Sugar Dock in Chalan Kanoa.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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