CRUZ BAY — The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed that officials issued several citations to yacht captain Ryan Bane — including “obstruction of a boarding” — but there is still no sign of British woman Sarm Heslop, who was reported missing from Bane’s vessel on March 8.
According to Virgin Islands police, Bane initially contacted 911 at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 8. Bane met police on land and was advised to also contact the U.S. Coast Guard, which he did much later that morning at 11:46 a.m.
The Coast Guard initially conducted a search of Frank Bay and the nearby shoreline from both a helicopter and small boat, according to information released Tuesday by Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad.
Crews then conducted a “routine follow-on vessel safety check of the sailing vessel Siren Song to conduct a reporting-source interview to gather information to assist with the surface-water search for Sarm Heslop, and then again, on a second occasion that afternoon, to conduct a standard vessel safety inspection,” according to the Coast Guard.
“This type of administrative inspection is often completed after a search and rescue case to confirm compliance with Coast Guard applicable safety rules and regulations for vessel type and operation.”
Bane “was cited for multiple violations, including failure to provide a certificate of documentation for the vessel, obstruction of a boarding, and safety equipment violations. These citations have not been adjudicated and are therefore not final determinations of an administrative procedure,” according to the information provided by Castrodad.
A standard vessel safety check like the one initially performed on the Siren Song “is a quick and limited protective inspection of a vessel for the boarding officer safety. It is conducted upon initial boarding with purpose to identify safety hazards and vessels seaworthiness. It is not to gather evidence, it is not based on either probable cause or reasonable suspicion,” according to the Coast Guard.
During the inspection, “Mr. Bane denied entry to the interior of the vessel and was cited for obstruction of boarding,” Castrodad said in an email.
The Coast Guard remains ready to assist police in the ongoing search, but “the Coast Guard’s active maritime search remains suspended pending new information. If anyone has information pertaining to a missing person in the maritime domain they should contact the closest Coast Guard unit,” according to Castrodad.
The Coast Guard referred questions about Heslop’s disappearance to local law enforcement.
V.I. Police spokesman Toby Derima said in an email Tuesday that investigators have “contacted Mr. Bane in attempt to get a detailed interview of events leading up to the disappearance of Ms. Heslop. To date, Mr. Bane, on advice of his attorney, has not agreed to a detailed interview with VIPD investigators.”
Police confirmed over the weekend that they are being assisted by federal and British law enforcement agencies in the ongoing investigation.
A website, findsarm.com, has been created to generate tips in her disappearance.
Anyone with information into the whereabouts of any missing person is urged to call 911 or the Criminal Investigation Bureau in the St. Thomas-St. John District at 340-774-2211 or in the St. Croix District at 340-778-2211.
—By SUZANNE CARLSON/Virgin Islands Daily News