Amfac insists missing man didn’t die in cane shredder

LIHU’E — The uncanny disappearance last weekend of Amfac sugar worker Davis

Cortez, Jr. has left his employers and police investigators baffled.

Though

Kaua’i police initially speculated that the 27-year-old man may have fallen

into cane-chopping equipment and died, without physical evidence to support

that theory, Cortez has been listed as a missing person.

“It’s extremely,

extremely unlikely that any kind of accident occurred,” said Amfac Sugar Kaua’i

spokesman Jim Boersma.

KPD officers, Boersma said, agree that it’s unlikely

that Cortez fell into the machinery.

“They did a total inspection of the

plant,” he said. “They checked in the machinery.”

It’s not possible to

accidentally slip into the equipment, he said.

“There’s an actual wall

he’d have to climb up to get into that machinery. But they did inspect that,

and there’s no trace of anything wrong. And no trace of blood or anything like

that. It doesn’t look like anything happened in the machine.

“They’re just

totally baffled about where this fellow could have gone.”

Cortez was last

seen at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning. He had reported for work earlier at

Amfac’s cane processing plant near Isenberg Tract in Lihu’e. At about the same

time, he failed to respond to a call for assistance from his supervisor.

A

search revealed that his car was in the employee parking lot and his car keys,

street clothes and coffee mug were in the break room.

“He was there at work

at 11 o’clock, at 1 o’clock people saw him, and at 1:30 nobody could find him,”

Boersma said.

Police recovered a rubber boot and t-shirt believed to belong

to Cortez in Amfac’s main factory about one mile from the processing plant.

Cane is transported from the processing plant by conveyor belt to the main

factory.

Cortez worked as a cane cleaner and utility repair worker in the

processing plant.

Boersma said he had worked there for several years and

was fully experienced.

“Everybody out there who works at the factory is

taught early on, this is the factory, this is what you do and what you don’t

do, so there are certain safety rules you follow when you turn the machines on

and operate them,” Boersma said.

“He knows them,” Boersma said. “It’s not

like he’s brand new on the job. The man is an experienced sugar factory worker,

and there’s no reason to believe that he wouldn’t follow safety regulations.

For sure, he’s an experienced hand around the machines, around the factory, and

he would know what to do and what not to do.”

Suicide, Boersma said, has

also been ruled out, at least as far as the family and Cortez’ co-workers are

concerned.

“The family doesn’t think there’s any reason for it, and our

guys don’t think there’s any reason for it,” he said.

“To our knowledge,

there were no problems with the man. He was a good worker. All of a sudden, he

was missing, and the car was still there.”

Boersma said the company is

concerned about Cortez and hopes he is found.

But on Tuesday, the only

person out looking was Cortez’ father, Davis Cortez, Sr., a 20-year veteran

Amfac Sugar welder who took the day off from work to search for his son.

State occupational safety officials have requested the KPD’s report on the

incident.

The decision whether or not to open an investigation will be

determined after the report has been studied.

Though KPD officers searched

both the processing plant and the main factory for evidence, they did not use

dogs to trace any scent, nor have helicopter or ground search teams been

organized to look for the man.

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