Daughters seek answers to parent's death in Peru

Posted at 11:29 PM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 00:35:19-04

Two daughters are digging for answers but hitting roadblocks as they try to learn how their parents from Sarpy County died in South America.

It’s been 15 days since 74-year-old Larry and 72-year-old Christy Hammer died on a Peruvian boat. Their grieving children want to know how and why.

“We don't have any information from the company or the authorities-nothing,” said daughter Jill Malott.

Both Malott and other daughter Kelly Lankford have been prying for answers, but no response from authorities.

“To not have any answers in the troubling way that they passed away and not have any answers from the Peruvian authorities about this investigation we are really concerned about how it's being handled,” said Lankford.

On April 10th, at 2:30 a.m. the Hammers were on vacation. One of the vessels called La Estrella Amazonica by International Expeditions. The daughters said they were told their parents passed away from smoke inhalation but nothing more.

“We are extremely concerned that they don't know the source of this fire, they do not know what happened after that fire and why our parents weren't alerted to wake up,” said Lankford.

KMTV reached out to International Expeditions in Alabama and sent us this statement:

“International Expeditions can confirm that the vessel, La Estrella Amazonica, has been cleared to resume operations following the April 10th tragic accident that affected a single cabin and led to the fatalities of the two guests in that cabin. The fire has been thoroughly investigated by the local authorities, including the Chief of Fire Department – Loreto Region, a Chief of Fire Prevention and Investigation Unit, a Chief of Instruction and Investigation, the commanding Deputy District Attorney, the Tourism Police Force, and Port Authorities, including a Navy Captain/marine surveyor of maritime accidents and the Harbor Master/Captain of the Port of Iquitos, all of which have cleared the vessel safe to carry guests.  The boat owners also commissioned third party specialists who have completed additional inspections of the fire and electrical systems to additionally verify the safety onboard the vessel. At this time we are awaiting issuance of official reports as to the exact cause of the fire. 

The guests from La Estrella Amazonica elected to continue with the journey and departed on Wednesday, April 13.  The guests were accompanied by International Expeditions President Van Perry, who traveled to Peru immediately after the incident to provide support to the guests and crew and overseeing the vessel inspection. 

Mr. Perry confirmed that, “The external and internal investigations into the accident are still ongoing, and International Expeditions will work with the authorities and the vessel owners to maintain a commitment to safety now and in the future. We continue to support our guests here in Peru, and the families of the deceased remain in our thoughts.

The vessel was deemed safe to resume normal operations, and scheduled departures have resumed,” said Carrie Palmer, Director of Marketing for International Expeditions.

Now the family has to rely on rumors on how their parents passed away. A video posted online shows their father dead on the floor on the suite they were staying at, but no signs of their mother.

“We've heard rumors of her dying on the boat, on the way to the hospital we don't even know where my mother was when she passed away,” said Lankford.

The daughters said they have reached out to some independent Peruvian inspectors to go through the ship and get some more information this week.

They said there’s been multiple tours on that boat since the incident.

“Within 72 hours they reloaded the same passengers onto the boat to continue their trip and have had two others since that trip,” said Malott.

And they are worried the scene may be compromised.

“The preservation of evidence and the preservation of the scene we don't know how that's been compromised and it really makes us concerned about the investigation to figure out what happened when that much time has passed,” said Malott.