Monday, November 15, 2010
Help Me Howard: Captain Hill
It is a terrible tragedy, the captain of a ship, trying to save it and then dying when it sank. That is difficult, even worse for a South Florida woman, the U.S. government refuses to allow him to be declared dead, blocking the woman from caring for her family. Can you fight the U.S. government? It's why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Quinn is simply adorable, a healthy happy two year old who sadly, will never see her father again.
Amy Hill, Battling US State Department: "He was in the South Pacific on a fishing vessel."
This summer David Hill, Amy's husband, Quinines father, was the captain of the Majestic Blue. A large commercial fishing vessel at work in the pacific.
Michael Calderin, Family Friend: "Apparently on that day flooding started in the engine room and they were unable to stop it."
The call to abandon ship was given, 23 crew members climbed into a small skiff, Captain Hill did not.
Michael Calderin: "It's presumed he may have attempted to save the vessel."
According to a crew member's statement, "Our chief engineer go back to ship to convince the captain to leave the ship, but the captain did not listen to him. When the boat sunk, the two of them was still inside.
Michael Calderin: "And after the vessel capsized there was no sight of them."
The Majestic Blue sunk in 17,000 feet of water over three miles deep. It took the nearest ship eight hours to get to the surviving crew. After a three day search rescuers gave up hope and concluded David and his chief engineer were dead at the bottom of the pacific.
It seems everyone realizes David is resting three miles down. Everyone except the U.S. State Department.
Michael Calderin: "It is absurd. It is absurd."
Michael Calderin is a family friend who is trying to help Amy get what she badly needs, a piece of paper that says David is dead.
Amy Hill: "I would like to get a death certificate."
But Amy can't get a death certificate because the U.S. State Department who is supposed to issue it, refuses to issue it.
Amy Hill: "The fact of them telling me I might not ever get one it was just so shocking to me and infuriating."
And when the government of Fiji, the nearest country to the sunken vessel, seemed ready to issue a death certificate, a state department official sent this E-mail and wrote in capital letters Fiji could not issue the certificate.
Michael Calderin: "This is a travesty."
Amy is now a single mom with a two year old daughter and she had told David she was pregnant with their second child. She needs the certificate to care for herself and their children.
Amy Hill: "Because it would allow me to get my social security benefits and life insurance and allow me to move on with my life."
When we talked to Amy she still seemed shocked at the turn her life had taken. Michael though, was angry that the U.S. government was trying to block her from caring for herself and her daughter.
Well Howard the State Department has told the family it might be awhile before they issue a death certificate, if they even issue a death certificate. Can they do that to a widow and her child?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes they have the power to delay or refuse to issue the death certificate. It's a cruel thing to do in a case as clear as this. But, fortunately Amy doesn't have to depend on the State Department she can go to court right now and ask a judge to declare her husband dead."
I spoke to the State Department twice both times, they told me they would get back to me. I am still waiting.
In the meantime, Amy went to Broward County Court where a judge granted an order declaring him presumptively dead. The Health Department then issued a death certificate.
Amy can now collect social security for herself and Quinn. She also has David's life insurance to help her. It won't be easy raising two children on her own.
Amy Hill: "I am not sure what I am going to do. If this has taught me anything, I am not going to make any plans."
But as she moves forward she does have a treasure that will always make her smile.
She is so cute. Someone asked me. Why couldn't divers go down to retrieve David's body? Well, the ship is three miles down. After a few hundred feet the pressure would crush a divers' body. It would take special remote controlled submarine to go that far.