Woman drives off Banzai Cliff


A Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel stands atop Banzai Cliff in Marpi as he watches rescuers from a Department of Public Safety Boating Safety Unit try to recover the body of 22-year-old Jilian He on Saturday. Witnesses saw He sitting at the edge of the cliff line, getting into a rented car, then accelerating the vehicle into the ocean on Saturday morning. He’s body was recovered from inside the submerged car later in the afternoon. (DFEMS photo)

A woman sat by the edge of Banzai Cliff in Marpi, got into her rented car, then drove off the cliff Saturday morning, police and witnesses said.

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Derek Gersonde identified the victim as Jilian He, 22, “a local Chinese female.”

Rescuers from DFEMS Search and Rescue Unit and Department of Public Safety’s Boating Safety Unit recovered the trapped body of the victim from the submerged car, which was found about 300 feet off of the cliff, 74 feet below sea level, on Saturday at 3:24pm, Gersonde said.

Acting DPS spokesman Lt. Jason Tarkong confirmed that police met with witnesses, who told them that an Asian woman drove a white-and-black Toyota Yaris sedan off the cliff.

A couple said the victim was first seen at the edge of the cliff; a security guard shouted at her to move away from the edge.

The couple said the victim got into her car, threw a purse and other items outside, backed the vehicle up then accelerated toward the cliff. The car hit a rock at the edge of the cliff, causing the vehicle to jump into the air, then fall into the water, with its front and roof smashing into the ocean first.

“It was like a car stunt in a movie,” said the witness, whose wife then called 911.

The wife said there was no phone signal so she first had to look for a spot to make the call.

The husband said the car was immediately submerged in the rough waters. He said the victim accelerated the car about 40 feet away from the cliff’s edge.

The couple and another man who was cliff fishing were at the scene at the time.

Tarkong said a DFEMS Search and Rescue Unit, along with a DPS Boating Safety Unit, responded and found the car several feet deep under the water below the cliff line.

Witnesses told Saipan Tribune that before the woman drove the car off the cliff, she threw a purse and an alleged suicide note out of the vehicle.
DFEMS received the call from DPS 911 about a car that had ran off the Banzai Cliff on Saturday at 9:35am.

Gersonde said a rescue unit from the Susupe Fire Station reported at 9:45am that the car had gone over the southern cliff of Banzai Cliff.

Medics from the Garapan Fire Station and SARU were dispatched to the scene to assist.

Gersonde said that DPS officers who interviewed eyewitnesses stated that He was last seen backing her car from the edge of the cliff and throwing out her purse, then accelerating the car off the cliff.
He’s 2017 Toyota Yaris had been rented from QQ Car Rental.

DPS officers later found a note in He’s purse that was written in both Chinese and English.

After the victim’s body was recovered from the water, it was transported to the marina by Boating Safety and transported to the Commonwealth Health Center at 4:14pm by the DPS Crime Scene technicians.

Gersonde said a doctor pronounced He dead at 4:35pm.

The incident somewhat echoes scenes from World War II, when Japanese civilians threw themselves off the cliff and Suicide Cliff rather than surrender to the invading U.S. Army.

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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