LIHU’E — The uncanny disappearance last weekend of Amfac sugar worker Davis
Cortez, Jr. has left his employers and police investigators baffled.
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.
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.
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.
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,”
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
Cortez worked as a cane cleaner and utility repair worker in the
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
“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
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.