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American Samoan Baby Dies In Honolulu Detention

Febraury 12, 2008

By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Feb. 12, 2008) – An 18-day-old baby who was escorted to Honolulu last Thursday night for heart surgery died the following morning after his mother and nurse were detained by immigration officials in a locked room in Honolulu.

Michael Futi, who was born here on Jan. 25, was taken to Honolulu for heart surgery, and his father, Tony, 39, told Samoa News yesterday that Michael – the youngest of four children – never made it.

He said his wife, Luaitou, 37, told him Friday “that they were detained too long but I don’t know how many hours they were kept.”

Honolulu police reported that the child died at 5:50 a.m. It’s unclear how long and why Honolulu immigration detained the child, his mother and the nurse from the hospital who accompanied them.

“I’m still in the dark as to why this happened,” said Tony. “He never made it to his surgery.”

The family plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and the family attorney, Rick Fried of Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks, has scheduled a press conference today in Honolulu to announce the lawsuit.

Fried told Samoa News Honolulu Correspondent Barry Markowitz that the infant was in Hawaii for heart surgery but he died after being detained by Honolulu airport immigration following a flight from here.

Fried said the infant’s travel arrangements were made by the hospital here. He said Luaitou is a citizen of Samoa but had gotten her travel papers in order with the assistance of the hospital so she can make the trip.

This was also confirmed by Tony, who said everything was in order when his wife and son left for Honolulu. He said his wife has lived here for 16 years.

He said his son was the first to get on the flight, as he was an emergency case, “and I would think that this would have been the case when he got there.”

Tony said when his son left, “he was strong and had a lot of will….and we prayed for him every night when he stayed at the hospital.”

He said his son was scheduled for heart surgery at a children’s hospital near the airport and everything was in order.

He said his wife has told him little about the incident, only saying that they were detained too long.

Tony works at Good Year Corporation Ltd., while Luaitou stays home with the children. The couple reside in Petesa, Tafuna.

Luaitou is currently staying with her sister’s family in Hawaii. She will be present at the press conference this afternoon with Fried.