CRIES IGNORED AS BABY DIES AT HONOLULU AIRPORT

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By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Feb. 13, 2008) - The attorney representing the family whose baby died at the Honolulu airport last Friday said Baby Michael Tony Futi spent about 30 minutes in a warm and locked room at the Honolulu International Airport before he died.

Baby Futi, who was two weeks old, flew a five-hour flight to Honolulu for a surgery to repair a hole in his heart, but he never made it past the airport.

Honolulu customs personnel detained Baby Futi, his mother Lua'ipou, 37, and LBJ nurse Arizona Veavea after a glitch came up on the computer system concerning Lua'ipou's visa waiver, Attorney Rick Fried of Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks law firm told Samoa News yesterday.

Fried said Baby Futi was doing fine and didn't have problems when he departed the plane.

But [after] about 30 minutes in the warm and locked room, Baby Futi - who was on oxygen as a precaution - experienced major breathing problems and both Lua'ipou and Veavea began screaming and called out for help, he said.

"The response was ‘stay calm’ and ‘be quite'" Fried said.

He said five minutes after pounding on the door and "continual yelling," airport paramedics came and performed CPR, and 10 or so minutes later, Baby Futi was taken to the nearest hospital.

Fried said by the time it was already too late.

A spokesman for the state Transportation Department said Baby Futi went into respiratory failure in the customs office, and airport paramedics failed to revive him.

A nurse with the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, where Baby Futi was to be treated, was there awaiting the traveling party, but Fried said it's unclear why Veavea and Baby Futi weren't allowed to go to hospital, as they both had U.S. passports.

Fried said had Baby Futi been allowed to go directly to the hospital from the airport, he would still be alive. He said Baby Futi and his escorts were the first to leave the plane.

He said the incident shows clear negligence by the Honolulu customs and immigration division.

Fried said the LBJ hospital made travel arrangements to transfer Baby Futi to Honolulu for treatment and all travel documents were in order. He said Lua'ipou's application for a visa waiver with the U.S. Customs was made well in advance.

Fried plans to file this week a notice of claim that the family intends to sue the federal government, which the Honolulu customs and immigration service comes under. He explained after the notice is filed, the federal government has six months to investigate before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed with the federal court in Honolulu.

About 30 reporters attended a press conference yesterday in Honolulu where the teary-eyed Lua'ipou said if Honolulu airport officials would have let them come out immediately, her baby would still be alive.

"She's crushed, distraught and hasn't slept and she hasn't eaten since her baby died," Fried said.

Lua'ipou's husband, Tony, told Samoa News yesterday that Baby Futi was their miracle baby because they didn't think they could have any more children.

He said they adopted a son, who is now three years old, and they have two other children, a 14-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

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