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‘I’m alive’: Parents of missing Kaneohe-based Navy corpsman receive text message

William Cole
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A missing person report was filed after 24-year-old Navy hospital corpsman Shaun Palmer failed to report for duty on Sunday. His mother says she plans to fly from California to help search for him.

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A 24-year-old Navy hospital corpsman based at Kaneohe Bay remains missing for a third day, officials said, but the case took a turn when a Navy investigator said a text was sent today from his phone to his parents saying, “I love you and I’m alive.”

Seaman Shaun Palmer, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, was last seen early Sunday morning when a Marine he was with was involved in an altercation outside of Kelley O’Neil’s in Waikiki, the Marine Corps and family said.

Palmer failed to report for duty on Sunday, and on Monday was classified as being on “unauthorized absence.”

“We are absolutely relieved to hear news of (Palmer) communicating with his parents,” Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman Capt. Eric Abrams said this afternoon. “At this point the command has still not made contact with the sailor, so we will continue to work with (the Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and local authorities until the situation is resolved.”

A missing person report was filed with the Honolulu Police Department and NCIS is investigating.

Nayda Mannle, special agent in charge of the Hawaii field office for NCIS, said at a news conference today that Palmer’s parents had been texting him and the reply came back, “I love you and I’m alive.”

Palmer’s distraught mother had started a GoFundMe page to raise money to fly from California to search for him.

“I need to raise money for air fare to Hawaii and hotel,” Diane Unterein, who lives in Southern California, said on the GoFundMe page. “My son is a navy corpsman from Kaneohe Bay and has gone missing for the past 48 hours. I would like to fly to Hawaii to help the search … to help find my son.”

Although HPD, NCIS and the military are looking for Palmer, Unterein said “I’d like to be there, too, to help. I need to find my son.”

As of about 1:30 p.m. today, Unterein had raised $3,730 — exceeding her $2,000 goal. The GoFundMe fundraiser can be found here.

Unterein has tweeted about her son’s absence repeatedly for at least two days, asking for anyone’s help in locating him. She described him as 5-foot-eight, 170 pounds with blue eyes and a shaved head.

“Please help me find my son,” his mother had posted on Twitter, adding that her son’s phone was dead and there has been no activity on his credit cards.

She said her son canceled a Lyft ride at 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

Abrams said Monday evening that there were “a lot of unknowns,” and the Corps was hoping that Palmer would turn up that night.

“We have no reason to think that he wouldn’t,” Abrams said at the time. “We don’t have information that anything else is in play.”

Palmer was with a Marine who was arrested after a “low-key” altercation with someone else, Abrams said. No major injuries were reported and the Marine was later released, he said.

Palmer was not scheduled to participate in any Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Corps said.

Mae Dean, a manager at Kelley O’Neil’s, said the altercation happened around closing time at 4 a.m. Sunday when everyone was being asked to leave the bar.

She was at work Sunday morning, and one of Palmer’s supervisors came by looking for him, she said.

“From what I understand, we’ve already checked the (video) tapes,” Dean said Monday evening, adding “there was nothing that we saw on camera, because it was really crowded at the time.”

NCIS asked to see the video tape, and they “didn’t see anything (either),” she said.

Star-Advertiser reporter Gordon Y.K. Pang contributed to this report.

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