NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Drugs were in the room where two former Navy SEALs were found dead aboard the Maersk Alabama, a ship that was the focus of a 2009 hijacking dramatized in the movie “Captain Phillips,” a company spokesman said Thursday.
Police from the African island nation of Seychelles have given no cause of death for Mark Daniel Kennedy, 43, and Jeffrey Keith Reynolds, 44. The Americans were security contractors who were found dead Tuesday in a cabin on the ship while berthed in Port Victoria in the Indian Ocean.
“We are saddened by the tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased men,” Maersk Line Ltd. spokesman Kevin Speers said in a statement.
Speers said the Seychelles police report includes observations about the presence of drugs and paraphernalia in the room where the two men were found dead, although the type of drug is unknown.
On Thursday, police spokesman Jean Toussaint, noted that officials were awaiting autopsies and said, “As far as I know there is no evidence of physical trauma” on either man’s body. Speers said the Maersk Alabama was cleared to leave Seychelles following the onboard investigation and that it is already underway.
The Maersk Alabama is a Norfolk, Va.-based container ship that provides feeder service to the east coast of Africa and employs security contractors to provide anti-piracy services. The two men who were found dead worked for a Virginia Beach, Va.-based maritime security firm, The Trident Group.
In a statement posted on its website, The Trident Group President Thomas Rothrauff said there “is no immediate indication as to the cause of death, but the deaths were not caused by operational activity.” Rothrauff wrote that the next of kin have asked that no further information be released and that their privacy be respected.
The Maersk Alabama’s owner, the Norfolk, Va.-based Maersk Line Ltd. also has said the deaths were not related to security duties or ship operations. The ship has since left the African port. Speers statement says the company has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol, and that based on past experience working with The Trident Group, it believes this is an isolated incident.
Still, the company is responding by requiring reviewing its personnel records to confirm that drug tests and background checks are current, among other things. Speer said The Trident Group will also implement a random drug testing program to increase the frequency it screens security personnel.
The Trident Group was founded by former Navy SEALs and hires former special warfare operators to perform security. On Thursday, the Navy confirmed that Kennedy and Reynolds belonged to the SEALs, an elite unit of the military’s special operations forces who are sometimes called upon to combat piracy.
In 2009, Navy SEALs aboard the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three of the pirates who were holding Capt. Richard Phillips in a lifeboat, bringing the five-day hijacking standoff involving the Maersk Alabama to an end. The “Captain Phillips” movie starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Richard Phillips was released last year.
Kennedy, whose home of record with the Navy was Baton Rouge, La., enlisted in 1995 and completed his final tour of duty in 2008, according to a summary of his record provided by the Navy. Kennedy was assigned to an East Coast-based special warfare unit, according to the record. Virginia Beach serves as the home of the Navy’s East Coast SEAL teams. He had medals for serving in campaigns in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reynolds, whose home of record with the Navy was Fountain Valley, Calif., enlisted in 1990. He was assigned to a West Coast-based special warfare unit until he was discharged in 2000. He had won two medals for good conduct while in the Navy.
Former military personnel frequently provide security on board ships sailing through the waters off Somalia to provide security against pirate attacks. Kennedy and Reynolds boarded the ship Jan. 29, Speers said.
The Alabama transports food aid to East Africa in support of the U.S. government’s “Food for Peace” program, according to Maersk Line. Crew members also help support the Bee Hive Children’s Home in Mombasa, Kenya.
Several crew members who were aboard the ship when it was hijacked in 2009 are suing Maersk Line and Mobile, Ala.-based Waterman Steamship Corp.
Nine crew members in the lawsuit, filed in Alabama in 2012, say they suffered physical and emotional injuries after Somali pirates boarded. Some crew members were held at gunpoint with Phillips; others hid in an engine room.