Matson: Our colleague was not given respect

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Matson Inc. believes that the body of a crewmember who was found lifeless aboard a vessel on its way to Guam was not handled properly by CNMI authorities and was not shown the respect that Matson and his family expected.

According to Bernie Valencia, Matson’s vice president and general manager for Guam and Micronesia, Matson made arrangements for the proper handling of the crewmember’s body upon arrival on Saipan but things did not turn out as planned.

“Out of respect for our fallen crewmember, we made arrangements for the proper handling of his remains upon arrival [on] Saipan. Mortuary professionals were waiting at the port with a hearse to receive our crewmember, but local authorities took control of the process and our colleague was not given the respect any of us would expect for a family member,” he said.

Valencia did not elaborate on the mishandling but said they are working with CNMI authorities to release the body of the crewmember, a 59-year-old man who served as the ship’s cook.

“We are working with local authorities to understand why this happened and to get our crewmember released so that we can resume the process of returning him to his family without delay,” he said

Saipan Tribune learned from a source that the man’s body is currently at the Commonwealth Health Center’s morgue and awaiting an autopsy.

Saipan Tribune also tried to reach out to CHCC and the Department of Public Safety for a comment on the alleged mishandling but they had yet to release any statements as of 5:50pm yesterday.

Video footage circulating on social media last week showed DPS crime scene technicians loading a body bag, which they carried out of a refrigerated container at the Saipan port, into a nearby police truck.

According to a local news outlet on Guam, upon testing the body for COVID-19, test results came out negative.

The lack of a medical examiner in Guam following the retirement of Dr. Aurelio Espinola prompted the U.S. territory to send the body to Saipan for an autopsy

A source told Saipan Tribune that the crew member passed away in his sleep as the Matson ship was on its way to Guam from Palau. However, since there are no medical examiners in Guam, the body was shipped to Saipan for examination.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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