Nairobi, Feb. 21: Two former Navy Seal members who had been hired to protect the container ship that was attacked by Somali pirates in 2009 — an episode that became the basis of the Oscar-nominated film Captain Phillips — were found dead while the ship, the Maersk Alabama, was docked in the Seychelles, officials said yesterday.
While the causes of death were still under investigation, a spokesperson for the ship’s owners said a police report indicated that drugs were in the cabin where the two bodies were found.
According to a portion of the police report shown to a reporter, the authorities found no injuries on either of the men. On a table near the bodies were “brown powder substances” that were “suspected to be drugs.” The two men were taken to Seychelles Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
The Maersk Alabama was preparing to set sail from Port of Victoria in the Seychelles on Tuesday afternoon when a colleague went to check on Mark Daniel Kennedy, 43, one of the former members of the Seals and a security officer on the ship.
The colleague discovered the body of Kennedy along with that of Jeffrey Keith Reynolds, 44, like Kennedy a former Seal member who was also working security aboard the ship.
“I don’t think foul play has been suspected,” said Jean Toussaint, a spokesperson for the Seychelles police.
While autopsy results were still pending, Kevin Speers, a spokesperson for Maersk Line Limited in Norfolk, Virginia, said that “the Seychelles police report includes observations about the presence of drugs and paraphernalia in the room where the two security contractors on board Maersk Alabama were found dead.”
Kennedy and Reynolds worked for the Trident Group, a maritime security company in Virginia Beach.
“I’m not going to jump to any conclusions, no matter how damning the evidence, until we get the autopsy results,” said Tom Rothrauff, the company president and also a former Seal member.
The 508-foot Maersk Alabama, which was built in Taiwan in 1998 to carry more than 1,000 20-foot containers, has its home port in Norfolk.
In April 2009, the vessel was the scene of one of the most notorious pirate hijackings in modern times. Four Somali pirates seized the Maersk Alabama and its crew. The crew fought back and the pirates left the ship, but took the captain, Richard Phillips, hostage at gunpoint. He was held in a lifeboat until Navy Seal snipers shot and killed three pirates. A fourth was taken into custody and later pleaded guilty to hijacking, receiving a sentence of more than 30 years in prison. Phillips is played by Tom Hanks in the film.
The attack on the Maersk Alabama was seen by many as the pivotal moment that led shipping concerns to begin placing armed security guards on their vessels.
Pirate attacks off the Somali coast have fallen off dramatically in recent years, since armed guards were added.
Kennedy and Reynolds had come aboard the Maersk Alabama on January 29. The ship’s previous stop was in Salalah, Oman, and it arrived on Monday on the island of Mahé, the largest in the Seychelles.