14-Day-Old Baby Dies in Custody

Posted by Shadmia on February 13, 2008

Michael Tony Futi was just 14 days old. He was born in Tafuna, American Samoa's largest village, which is located on the east coast of Tutuila Island, on Jan. 25, 2008. He was sick and traveling to Hawaii for heart surgery with his mother, Luaipou Fiti, and a nurse. While on the flight the baby was reported to have been on oxygen because he was having trouble breathing.

They were all detained by immigration officials after landing at Honolulu International Airport on Friday Feb. 8, 2008. The Hawaiian Airlines flight landed at 5:30am. For unknown reasons, all three were placed in a locked room. Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the child went into respiratory failure while in the customs office, which is located near the baggage claims area of the overseas terminal.

An Hawaiian lawyer, Rick Fried has expressed disbelief that immigration authorities would lock a sick child in a room and says the baby died because of the callousness of the customs and immigration personnel:

"They were locked in this room and could not get out and when both the mother and the nurse were screaming for help, call 911, the people outside were saying stay calm, relax. Finally about five minutes later when the baby was in terrible trouble someone opened the door and then about ten minutes after that the emergency medical people came."

In a television interview with KITV, Jim Kosciuk of Customs and Border Protection claimed there were "no delays" in processing the group and that airport EMS and 911 were "immediately called" and the baby was rushed to the hospital.

DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa claims that no-one was aware that they were dealing with a sick baby: "We were later told the baby was coming here for heart surgery," he said.

According to police, the child died at 5:50 a.m. Emergency Medical Service didn't arrived until 6:15 a.m. and took the child to a hospital emergency room where efforts to revive Futi were unsuccessful. Attorney Rick Fried of Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit.