CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
In lawyer Rick Fried’s office at a news conference last week, Luaipou Futi cries about her baby, Michael Tony Futi, who died while in custody at Honolulu Airport.
Baby’s death at airport sparks calls for inquiry
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » American Samoa's Democratic delegate to Congress has joined with the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee in calling for investigation into the death of a baby at Honolulu Airport.
Delegate Eni Faleomavaega and U.S. Rep. Peter T. King of New York separately requested that Homeland Security investigate the death of 14-day-old Michael Tony Futi on Feb. 9 while the infant, his mother and a nurse were being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
The baby had been flown to Honolulu for emergency heart surgery. He died while detained inside a customs room at the Honolulu Airport with his mother and nurse.
"This appears to be a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to the family," King said Friday. He said customs agents are charged with "keeping our country secure, and I have a great deal of respect for the job that they do, but this entire matter must be fully investigated."
Faleomavaega called for the probe in a letter to Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff.
"According to the family, the group was detained by CBP because of issues dealing with travel documentation," Faleomavaega wrote.
He said there are many issues and questions regarding the "seriousness of Michael's death and whether this tragedy could have been prevented."
On Thursday, territorial Rep. Archie Soliai called on House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale for the territorial government to find out what happened to the infant.
"This incident makes me very worried about the rights of our people in the future," Soliai said on the House floor.
Territorial Sen. Tuaolo M. Fruean questioned whether LBJ Medical Center in American Samoa, where the infant was being treated, had taken all necessary precautions to ensure he was well taken care of prior to arrival in Honolulu.
He said he also was concerned with the lack of an LBJ representative waiting for patients from American Samoa at the Honolulu Airport, which he said has been the practice in past years.
LBJ Medical Center general counsel Terry Lovelace said the hospital did everything properly, adding that the infant "was taken to Hawaii as soon as he was stable enough for transfer."
The boy's father, Tony Futi, said he was still in shock over "our miracle baby." He said he and his wife didn't think they could have more children.
He said they adopted a son, who is now 3 years old, and they have two other children, a 14-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.
Futi said all papers including the visa waiver were in order for his wife when they left for Honolulu. He said his wife, a citizen of Samoa, has lived in American Samoa for 16 years.
He 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 (LBJ) hospital."