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U.S. government sued in baby's death

Detainment by officials led to the death of her son, a woman from American Samoa says

By Nelson Daranciang
[email protected]
A woman from American Samoa is suing the U.S. government for the death of her 2-week-old son at Honolulu Airport earlier this year.

Luaipou Futi claims her son, Michael Tony Futi, died because U.S. Customs officials held her, her son and an attending nurse in lockup over a paperwork dispute.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday, attorneys for Futi said the boy needed immediate care for a serious birth defect. They planned today to discuss the reasons for filing it.

More than six months have passed since Futi filed administrative claims with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, with no final disposition, according to the lawsuit.

Futi gave birth to her son Jan. 25 at LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, American Samoa. The boy’s doctor soon discovered he had a heart murmur and placed him on an oxygen-enriched breathing mixture, the lawsuit said.

Hospital officials requested and received approval from U.S. Customs officials for an emergency visa waiver for Futi to accompany her son and a nurse to Honolulu to seek urgent medical care for the infant, according to the lawsuit.

Futi, her son and nurse arrived in Honolulu on Feb. 8 aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight and were the first off the plane.

Futi’s lawyer, Rick Fried, said earlier that there was apparently a problem with Futi’s waiver form, so customs officials ordered her, her son and the nurse into a detention room.

The nurse pleaded with officials to let her and the boy go while they sorted out Futi’s paperwork but was told to “be quiet,” the lawsuit said. The nurse said she had arranged for her best friend, who is a nurse at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, to pick them up at the airport.

According to the lawsuit, the nurse was able to persuade officials to call 911 after frantic pleas and as the infant’s condition worsened. An ambulance took the boy to Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The Honolulu medical examiner says Futi’s son died of anoxia, or failure to receive required oxygen.