Dec. 19, 2002 – A local investigation has determined that the death of a Canadian citizen aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that had sailed from St. Martin to St. Thomas last July was accidental, Attorney General Iver Stridiron said on Thursday.
Stridiron said the victim, O'Neil Persaud, 31, was accidentally suffocated on July 20 by security officers on board the ship, Adventure of the Seas, as he experienced what Stridiron called "a psychiatric crisis."
At the time, cruise ship officials told authorities on St. Thomas that a Guyanese man holding a Canadian passport was being held in confinement as a stowaway when he became violent and irrational. Persaud, a resident of Toronto, had boarded the ship without authorization in St. Martin, they said, and when he became uncontrollable, security and medical personnel placed him in a holding cell.
"Five members of the ship's security crew accidentally smothered Mr. Persaud, and he died as a result of the method they used in restraining him," Stridiron said at a Thursday morning press conference where he also announced that his office would not prosecute any of the police officers involved in five shooting deaths.
"I've determined that Mr. Persaud, while on board ship, between July 19 and midday on July 20, exhibited psychiatric abnormalities, became violent and uncontrollable, which prompted the ship's crew and medical personnel to employ heroic methods to restrain him from seriously injuring himself," Stridiron said Thursday.
He said his conclusion was based on his review of the investigation carried out by the V.I. Justice Department and police on St. Thomas and in St. Martin, and statements made by members of the ship's crew.
Members of Persaud's family in Canada questioned the accounts given at the time of his death. His mother, Esther Persaud, speaking from Ontario on Thursday, said she was not surprised by Stridiron's conclusion because an autopsy report said her son had died of asphyxiation caused by compression of the chest. "I heard he was supposed to make the announcement today," she said of the attorney general.
She said the family has retained attorney Derek Hodge to represent them against the cruise line.
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