Search continues for missing sisters

Inos says they’re doing the impossible to locate the tourists

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed into the ocean yesterday a device that simulates a human body adrift at sea, leading investigators to move the search for the two missing Japanese sisters to the Tanapag Lagoon. With still no trace of the victims, the search is expected to resume today, Friday.

As this developed, the Department of Public Safety released yesterday photos of missing sisters Chinatsu Yamada, 26, and Natsuki Yamada, 33. The photos were obtained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and were released as authorities urged citizens to help in the search.

In a news briefing yesterday afternoon at Tanapag Beach, police detective Simon Manacop disclosed that they have so far seen no evidence of foul play behind the sisters’ disappearance.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos said they held the news briefing to provide some update to the media and visiting reporters from Japan on the situation with the missing sisters.

Inos said they just met with the parents of the Yamada sisters and that they informed them of efforts being done to locate the missing women.

“Coming from me, on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth, we’re saddened with this situation with the two girls,” Inos said.

Inos said they’re doing the impossible to hopefully find the sisters’ whereabouts and safely bring them back to their parents.

“We do care about our visitors when they arrive on the islands,” the governor said. “This is to me a rather unfortunate situation, but we hope in the very, very near future we will get to the bottom of this thing and bring closure to this matter.”

Manacop also revealed that they did not recover the sisters’ cell phones.

Manacop said their investigation at this point points to the Yamada sisters going on a night swimming.

He refused to comment when asked if they have information whether other people with the sisters at the beach.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero said that prior to the sisters’ disappearance, one of the two was spotted coming out of the hotel room, wearing a towel. He said it appears that the sisters were going out to swim.

Deleon Guerrero emphasized that the area being searched is quite large and that the surrounding waters where the victims are thought to have disappeared are quite rough.

The commissioner said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not yet involved in the investigation, but that if there is a reason to suggest that there may be a need for them to participate, they will reach out to them.

CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management special assistant Marvin Seman said 60 local and federal personnel are participating in the search.

Seman said their part is to provide additional resources by coordinating support for DPS and with their federal counterpart, the Department of Homeland Security.

Lt. Ken McCain of the U.S. Coast Guard said they partnered with DPS in the search efforts by launching several water-based assets as well as fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters.

DPS police spokesman Travis Hurst said the video surveillance at the Mariana Resort and Spa, where the sisters stayed, does not indicate whether or not the victims were carrying the inflatable raft. Hurst said the sisters, however, were seen in the video carrying tote-style bags out of their room.

Hurst said it has been confirmed that the clothing found at Wing Beach does not match the clothing indicated in the surveillance camera.

Hurst said it has been confirmed that the inflatable raft was intact when search and rescue team recovered it some 25 nautical miles north of Banzai Cliff on Wednesday morning.

The search continued yesterday with crews scouring land and sea, concentrating on the area surrounding the Tanapag Lagoon and all areas north to Wing Beach.

Crews were using three rescue boats and three jetskis. Divers were also deployed.

Hurst said fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard will be utilized as they are available.

He said land crews are using all-terrain vehicles to broaden the search from Tanapag Lagoon north to the Wing Beach area.

The Yamada sisters reportedly arrived on Saipan Saturday morning. They were scheduled to depart on Monday, June 30, at 6am. On Monday at 12:08pm, their rental car was recovered at Wing Beach, which is near the Mariana’s Resort and Spa.

Investigators learned that the record in the past 10 years showed it’s the first time for the Yamada sisters to visit Saipan.

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

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