Questions Still Remain In Ferry Employee's Death
Posted February 15, 2006 7:26 a.m. EST
DARE COUNTY, N.C. — It's painful for Connie Noe to talk about her husband's death. It's excruciating for her to consider how he died.
"It's hard for me to conceive that he would even think of doing something like that," Noe said.
Danny Noe worked at the State Ferry Division making sure boats met safety regulations.
A plan to launch a passenger ferry service from Corolla to mainland Currituck County was on the fast track after state Senate President Pro-Tem Marc Basnight pushed through more than $800,000 for the project.
The pontoon boat built for the job, however, didn't meet Coast Guard safety standards for the sound.
"Danny wouldn't have no part of it," said Robert Sharp, Danny Noe's friend and coworker. "That's what got him in deep trouble."
Sharp says Noe tried to expose problems with the boat and with the ferry division. Viewed as disgruntled, Noe was taken off the project.
Noe was said to be a witness in a larger federal investigation. Then, in April 2005, his wife found him dead in his study with a plastic bag over his head and his hands bound behind his back.
"It ruined my whole life," said Connie Noe. "I lost the man that I really loved."
The state medical examiner determined Danny was asphyxiated due to the bag, and ruled the death to be a suicide.
In an unusual move, sheriff's investigators called in the State Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney to look at the evidence. They concluded he left a handwritten note and put on the bag and plastic ties himself.
Investigators declined to talk with WRAL. Sharp, however, believes his friend died as a result of a conspiracy.
"Danny needed to be removed," he said. "He knew too much."
Months after Noe's death, four state Department of Transportation workers pleaded guilty to bypassing environmental permits at Corolla. They broke federal laws when they dredged a channel in the shallow sound.
A federal grand jury also indicted Ferry Division Director Jerry Gaskill for conspiracy and cover-up of the dredging. He was suspended from the job and resigned.
With the ferry scandal still unfolding, Connie Noe stays focused on her loss.
When asked if she thinks that her husband's attempts to a whistleblower led to his death, she said, "Yes, I do."
Noe and Sharp have doubts, but have no proof to refute the suicide ruling.
They're asking state and federal authorities looking into the failed ferry project to reopen the death investigation.
To date, however, that case is closed.