NORFOLK — The Maersk Alabama was cleared to leave the island nation of Seychelles after authorities there completed an onboard investigation into the deaths of two Americans aboard the ship that was the focus of a 2009 hijacking dramatized in the movie “Captain Phillips,” a company spokesman said Thursday.
The Americans were security officers who were found dead Tuesday in a cabin on the ship while berthed in Port Victoria in the Indian Ocean.
Seychelles police have given no cause of death for Michael Daniel Kennedy — whom the Navy has identified as a 43-year-old former SEAL — and Jeffrey Reynolds, 44.
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. He also said he wasn’t not aware that the Maersk Alabama had been cleared to leave and couldn’t comment on that report.
The U.S. Coast Guard has said it also is investigating the deaths.
The Maersk Alabama is a Norfolk-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-based maritime security firm, The Trident Group.
In a statement posted on its website, The Trident Group said there “is no immediate indication as to the cause of death, but the deaths were not caused by operational activity.” The Maersk Alabama’s owner, the Norfolk-based Maersk Line Ltd. also has said the deaths were not related to security duties or ship operations. Company spokesman Kevin Speers said Thursday that the ship had already gotten underway.
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 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, sent in an email by Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lauryn Dempsey. Kennedy was assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team, according to the record. Virginia Beach serves as the home of the Navy’s East Coast SEAL teams.
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.
AP writer Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.