By Khushbu Shah. Tom Cohen and Michael Martinez
(CNN) — Traces of narcotics and hypodermic needles found with the bodies of two American security officers on the Maersk Alabama container ship suggested the deaths resulted from drug overdoses, a Seychelles government official told CNN on Thursday.
Seychelles police identified the bodies found Tuesday as Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, both 44.
“A postmortem will be carried out this week in order to establish the cause of their sudden deaths,” police said, adding that the investigation continues.
According to the government official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, the presence of drug traces and paraphernalia “would suggest that their deaths were a result of drug overdose.”
The 500-foot Maersk Alabama was targeted by Somali pirates in an attempted hijacking off the east coast of Africa in 2009. The 2013 film “Captain Phillips” is based on the incident.
Reynolds and Kennedy worked for Trident Group, a Virginia-based maritime security services firm. The company’s president, Tom Rothrauff, said the men were former Navy SEALs.
“It’s bizarre. Of course, it’s a shock. They’re all great guys,” Rothrauff said. “I’m absolutely clueless as to what happened.”
Kevin N. Speers, a senior director for Maersk Line, said in a statement that the security contractors boarded the vessel on January 29, and that their deaths were “not related to vessel operations or their duties as security personnel.”
Maersk Line contracts with Trident Group in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard security directives, Speers said in the statement.
“Contracted security is part of anti-piracy protection plans to safeguard crews and vessels,” Speers said. “In Maersk Alabama’s case, she is persistently in high-risk areas since she provides feeder service to the east coast of Africa.”
The Maersk Alabama has since left Port Victoria, the Seychelles capital, Speers told CNN on Thursday.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel Tremper said the U.S. Coast Guard had been notified about the deaths of two U.S. citizens and is investigating, but “due to the nature of the investigation, that will be about all that we can provide right now.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed the men were U.S. citizens. The Coast Guard is involved in the investigation because the Maersk Alabama is a U.S.-flagged ship, Harf said.
Police said the ship arrived in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, on Sunday with a 24-man crew and had been expected to leave Tuesday. The bodies were found by a colleague who had gone to check in on one of the men in a cabin at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Seychelles police said.
CNN first learned about the incident on Twitter.
In April 2009, four armed pirates attempted to hijack the Maersk Alabama 380 miles off the coast of Somalia. After the crew sank the pirates’ vessel and foiled their efforts to take control of the container ship, the pirates took the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, hostage on a lifeboat. The incident ended three days later when Navy sharpshooters killed three of the pirates and captured the fourth. Phillips was unharmed.
The ship was attacked by pirates again later that year, but armed security personnel fought them off. Another attempt by pirates to board the ship, in March 2011, was thwarted when security personnel fired warning shots.