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Official: Drugs, needles found with dead officers on Maersk

By Khushbu Shah. Tom Cohen and Michael Martinez, CNN
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maersk, security contractor launch drug testing plan after deaths
  • Needles, traces of narcotics found with dead contractors, Seychelles official says
  • Two American security contractors were former Navy SEALs, executive says
  • A colleague found the bodies in a ship cabin, police say

(CNN) -- Traces of narcotics and hypodermic needles found with the bodies of two American security officers on the container ship Maersk Alabama suggested the deaths resulted from drug overdoses, a Seychelles government official has told CNN.

Seychelles police identified the bodies found Tuesday as Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, both 44. They worked for Trident Group, a Virginia-based maritime security services firm. Trident Group President Tom Rothrauff said both were former Navy SEALs.

"It's bizarre. Of course, it's a shock. They're all great guys," Rothrauff said. "I'm absolutely clueless as to what happened."

Police said an autopsy would be carried out early next week. But the Seychelles government official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said Thursday that the presence of drug traces and paraphernalia "would suggest that their deaths were a result of drug overdose."

A Seychelles police statement said that despite media accounts of traces of drugs, authorities have not released any reports suggesting the deaths were the result of an overdose. The statement, however, did not deny that drugs were found or suggest an alternative cause of death.

Police: 2 Americans found dead on ship
Shipping giant's record-breaking vessel
2009: Maersk crew back home

The 500-foot Maersk Alabama was the target of an attempted hijacking in the pirate-infested waters off East Africa in 2009 -- an incident that inspired the 2013 film "Captain Phillips." The shipping giant Maersk, which hired the Trident Group to guard its ships, said Thursday that Trident would be conducting random drug tests of its employees.

"Based on our experience with the contractor, this is an isolated incident," Maersk said. But it said new drug tests would start immediately and the company's shore-leave policy was under review. The Maersk Alabama has since left the Seychelles capital of Port Victoria, the company said Thursday.

Police said the ship arrived Sunday in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, with a 24-man crew and had been expected to leave Tuesday. The bodies were found by a colleague who had gone to check in on one of the men in a cabin at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Seychelles police said.

Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said the service was investigating the deaths, as required by American law. But he said the deaths "do not appear to be criminal in nature, related to vessel operations, the material condition of the ship or their duties as security personnel."

In April 2009, four armed pirates attempted to hijack the Maersk Alabama 380 miles off Somalia. After the crew sank the pirates' vessel and foiled their efforts to take control of the container ship, the pirates took the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, hostage on a lifeboat.

The incident ended three days later when Navy sharpshooters killed three of the pirates and captured the fourth. Phillips was unharmed.

Pirates attacked the ship again later that year, but armed security personnel fought them off. In March 2011, another attempt by pirates to board the ship was thwarted when security personnel fired warning shots.

2010: Hero skipper ignored pirate warnings, crew says

2009: Crewman's e-mail gives harrowing details of hijacking

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