Local seaman’s disappearance at sea highlights safety issues


Rep. Alexander Eli Jennings has confirmed that a young fisherman who fell over board a fishing vessel over the weekend and now presumed dead is a relative, but didn’t release his name.  However, Radio New Zealand is reporting that he has been identified as 18-year-old Vaitui Auna’i of Pavaiai.

The 18-year old seaman fell overboard the U.S.-flagged fishing vessel ‘Siva Moana’ while recovering fishing gear when the vessel was about 115 miles south of American Samoa over the weekend, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, adding that the young man was not wearing a life jacket at the time.

Samoa News was unable to confirm what day the incident happened, and at what time. However, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Barbers Point, Hawaii was dispatched to the scene to carry out a search on Sunday, relieving a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion search plane, which was first launched to conduct the search and rescue efforts.

The Coast Guard called off the search Monday night, and its local Marine Safety Detachment unit has taken over the investigation into the cause of the incident.

This case was raised yesterday during the House session by Jennings, who told his colleagues that he believed safety issues attributed to the accident of his family member who fell overboard.

Jennings said they held a family prayer service Monday evening for this young man.

The Swain Island Delegate, who chairs the House Transportation and Port Administration Committee, is calling a hearing concerning safety issues on fishing vessels. He believed that there were no safety jackets on board the vessel and that was the reason his relative is now lost at sea forever.

Jennings told lawmakers that he would like to have discussions with the Coast Guard and Port Administration regarding safety issues on all vessels operating in American Samoa waters.

Witnesses called to the hearing, scheduled for next week Tuesday are, Coast Guard Lt. Steven Caskey with the local unit, and Port Administration director Matagi Ray McMoore. One of the issues Jennings wants for information about is the number of life safe devices required to be on board fishing vessels.

Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.


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