Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma dies on board ship

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The body of Cmdr. Keith Willis, the commanding officer of th Kittery, Maine, based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma was found in the officer’s cabin on board the ship around 10 a.m. Sunday while in homeport.

Cmdr. Willis, 44, a native of Frisco, N.C., assumed command of the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Tahoma in May 2007.

Willis most recently served as the Coast Guard liaison officer to Commander, U.S. Navy Second Fleet, after having served as the assistant Coast Guard liaison officer at U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Joint Forces Command from August 2004 through August 2006. Willis graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Government.

“We are deeply saddened by the news about the loss of our shipmate,” said Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., the commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area command in Portsmouth, Va. “Our focus right now is on supporting the family, helping Tahoma’s crew, and working with the appropriate officials to determine what happened.”

Members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Coast Guard Investigative Service are currently on board Tahoma.

The cause of death is unknown at this time.

The Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported at the U.S. Naval Shipyard Portsmouth in Kittery, and was most recently deployed off the New England coast where it conducted various law enforcement and marine safety missions until returning to port Jan. 28

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