Investigation continues into death of Cutter Tahoma commanding officer

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The investigation into the death of the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma, whose body was found Sunday in his cabin on board the ship while in its homeport of Kittery, Maine, is continuing Monday.

The cause of death for Cmdr. Keith Willis, commanding officer of the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Tahoma, remains unknown.

Willis’ remains were taken ashore Sunday night around 7 p.m. under the care of a 12-person honor guard.

“The honor guard was made up of members of the ship’s crew, including the executive officer, Cmdr. Greg Stanclik,” said Capt. John Davis, chief of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area cutter forces staff in Portsmouth, Va., “Commander Stanclik has temporarily assumed command of the cutter until a permanent relief can be assigned.”

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire crew are with Commander Willis’ family,” said Stanclik. “This has been difficult for everyone, but being able to pipe the skipper ashore under appropriate military honors last night meant a lot to everyone.”

Once off the cutter, Willis’ remains were taken to a local funeral home while additional arrangements were coordinated to transport the remains to the medical examiner’s office in Augusta, Maine. An autopsy is planned to attempt to determine the cause of death.

Willis leaves behind a wife and two children.

Willis, 44, was a native of Frisco, N.C., and had assumed command of the 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.

The Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter home ported 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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