O’neil Persaud, 31 – Murder, Carnival Spirit Passenger, June 4, 2009, Time of Death is unknown.
O’neil Persaud, 31, from Scarborough, Ontario who was born in Guyana was, on a pre-paid holiday at a resort, he didn’t leave home for a cruise. Yet, he died aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Adventure Of The Seas.
Persaud was staying at the Great Bay Beach Hotel and Casino in St. Maarten, on a travel package that included free drinks. The beach bartender remembers that O’Neil’s first stop was the bar and that he came back often.
A videotape shows him boarding the Adventure of the Seas at St. Maarten in the company of a woman wearing a white hat who appears to be resting her hand on his. Though not a registered passenger, managed to walk through three security check points without being stopped before the ship sailed for St. Thomas. He later approached crew members for food and a room, making no attempt to hide himself onboard. He was placed in an isolation cell, at some point in time, according to ship records.
Lieut. John Reinert of the U.S. Coast Guard is called to Adventure of the Seas by the ship’s agent, West Indian Company, and told there’s a stowaway onboard when Adventure of the Seas arrives in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Reinert boards Adventure of the Seas and talks to the head of security and Persaud. When he sees Persaud, he is lying on a bed in a small room, and is restrained from his ankles to the mid thigh, and from his waist to mid chest. He is also handcuffed. Persaud tells Reinert that while on St. Maarten he had attended a church and found God. Reinert notes that Persaud doesn’t seem to be in any pain but may be uncomfortable from the restraints. He’s coherent and gives his parents’ names and phone numbers. At that time Persaud does not ask for help.
Federal officials leave the ship and do background checks on Persaud, which turn up nothing. U.S. Immigration officer Cleatus Hunt says he will return to the ship with a decision on what to do with Persaud. When he returns, he serves Staff Captain Darin Bowland with an I-259, an order to remove him from the U.S. by the end of the day.
Bowland protests and insists that Persaud needs medical attention on shore. The INS official agrees Persaud should be brought to the hospital for evaluation but maintains that he is the ship’s responsibility.
Bowland is told by Royal Caribbean security in Miami that the ship’s agent, West Indian Company, is responsible for removing Persaud from the ship and taking him to hospital. The West Indian Company agent says he cannot remove Persaud, and must contact the dock master, Mr. Alfred Lloyd for assistance. Bowland stresses this is a serious situation that needs immediate action.
In the isolation room, Persaud asks to go to the toilet. He is allowed to go but must keep his handcuffs on. Once he’s in the washroom, the guards hear breaking glass. They try to unlock the door but Persaud is holding it shut. The guards pry the door open with a crowbar. Safety Officer Kevin Costello tells Persaud to move away from the door and face the toilet bowl. On the count of 3 security guards open the washroom door and Persaud lunges at them. They spray two cans of pepper spray at him but it has no effect on Persaud; however; it does incapacitate some of the security guards.
Persaud is manhandled back into the cell by security. He seems to be getting stronger while the guards are getting weaker from the pepper spray.
Holding a blanket, 5 men enter the cell. Persaud hits Safety Officer Kevin Costello in the head and stuns him. Persaud is wrestled to the bed. Security gets him into a position of submission. He is held at his lower legs, upper legs, hips, chest, arms and shoulder. The Safety Officer readies the Neil Robertson stretcher, but Staff Captain Darin Bowland tells him to get the doctor to sedate Persaud.
Persaud is struggling violently for another 5 minutes then seems to settle down. The men holding him notice a white foam coming from his mouth. Bowland tells Deputy Security Officer Raymond Newell to check if he is breathing and he is.
Ship doctor Christian Lintermans and Nurse Julie Cedilot are called to sedate Persaud. When they arrive, Persaud is in a left side fetal position being held against the wall by 3 security guards. He is injected in the buttock with 10 mg Valium and 50 mg Phenergan. Persaud has become still. The doctor checks his vitals signs but he is unresponsive.
The Royal Caribbean’s account of what happened to him while on the ship was, “while in the cell, among other violent acts, he tore metal from a wall, cut his wrists and smeared blood on himself and the walls, assaulted one crew member, knocking him out, and kicked another in the face, all the while handcuffed, withstood two cans of pepper spray without effect, attempted to set a fire and placed a rope around his neck and attempted to hang himself.” In Toronto, a man calls a local hospital posing as a doctor and asks for Persaud’s medical records. The hospital employee, recognizing the man is not who he says his is, refuses.
Persaud’s family and friends receive mysterious calls from someone calling himself Jack Reynolds who is inquiring about Persaud’s credit history. In St. Maarten, an American man, claiming to be from Royal Caribbean arrives at the Great Bay Beach Hotel and Casino and asks for the contents of Persaud’s hotel room. When the hotel Manager asks for ID she is shown a Florida driver’s license but no business card. She refuses to hand over Persaud’s belongings. He returns the next day and is seen around the hotel, but then disappears.
The coroner who conducted an autopsy in the Virgin Islands found that he “died from suffocation (chest compression) after being suffocated by the people who sat on him.”
A second coroner presiding over an autopsy in Toronto about three weeks later found he died in a state of “excited delirium,” a condition in which people appear agitated and paranoid.
No drugs other than marijuana and the sedative used to subdue him were found in his system.
There were many opportunities to try and evaluate the status and condition of O’neil. A number of people had the opportunity to remove him from the ship. That decision was not made in spite of (here is the really odd part) “the captain’s many pleas.”
The Persaud family came to Canada in the 1970’s from Guyana. They settled in Toronto with their three children. O’Neil was the youngest. The family owns their own silk screening business and O’Neil worked there as a graphic designer.