Photo provided by the Hermanson family.
The family of Adam Hermanson, a 25-year-old military contractor who died in Baghdad’s Green Zone on September 1–apparently of electrocution in a shower–is alleging that Hermanson’s employer, Triple Canopy, initially misled them about how he died. Relatives of Hermanson, a US Air Force veteran who began working for Triple Canopy after his discharge from the military, also say that a Triple Canopy representative told them that the company had dismantled electrical wiring and other equipment in Hermanson’s quarters after his body was found, which could make it harder to determine the circumstances surrounding his death.
“We’re looking for a straight answer, and they haven’t given us a straight answer for anything,” says Jesse Hermanson, 17, Adam’s brother. “We haven’t gotten any straight answers from Triple Canopy.” Patricia Hermanson, Adam’s mother, said that from the first call she received from the company–to inform her of her son’s death–she felt the company was not being straight with her about what had happened.
On the afternoon of September 1, Patricia was at a movie theater in San Diego when she received a call on her cellphone. Thinking it was Adam, whom she had not heard from in more than a week, she rushed from the theater to answer the call. On the other end, she says, was a Triple Canopy representative named Jeff Wilczak. “He says, ‘I’m afraid I have to inform you that your son was found collapsed by his bed, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful,'” Patricia remembers.
In the meantime, Janine Hermanson, Adam’s wife, said she received a call from the US Embassy in Baghdad telling her that her husband had died in a shower at his living quarters in Camp Olympia, Triple Canopy’s base inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.
This discrepancy, according to Patricia, was the first sign that something was off. When she spoke to Wilczak, “nothing was mentioned about a shower or anything like that. I would have remembered that. I can remember this until the day I die. He said Adam was found unconscious by his bed, and unfortunately, efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. There’s no question in my mind.”
Patricia says that she was in such shock and pain after learning of her son’s death that she asked her brother, Paul Moreno Jr., to handle all communications with Triple Canopy on her behalf. The next day, according to Moreno, Wilczak’s story changed. “Wilczak told me Adam had not collapsed in his room, that he had collapsed in the shower,” Moreno says. Moreno consulted with other family members, and they developed a list of questions that they wanted answered about Adam’s death. When his body was found, were there signs of struggle? Was anything lodged in his mouth? Were there any bruises or scratches or any marks on his body? Wilczak, Moreno says, answered no to every question. As for the issue of marks on Adam’s body, Moreno says: “I had half my family at the kitchen table in on the conversation, and I asked him repeatedly that question. Repeatedly. I asked him over and over and over, Were there any cuts or scrapes or bruises or marks on his body? And he said no.” He says that Wilczak did not mention electrocution or electric shock. “Nothing like that.”