ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal authorities planned to announce charges Thursday in what was described as a domestic dispute aboard a cruise ship in U.S. waters off Alaska that led to the death of a 39-year-old Utah woman.
A suspect was taken into custody, the FBI in Anchorage said late Wednesday. Princess Cruises said the woman died Tuesday night on the Emerald Princess, which was carrying 3,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members on a weeklong trip that left Sunday from Seattle. The ship docked in Juneau, Alaska, on Wednesday morning.
Few details about the case were released as investigators went about their work. Passengers were kept aboard the ship for much of the day Wednesday, prompting some grumbling. “You feel sorry for the family but a lot of people had to wait,” said Lloyd Barrows, a passenger from Alberta, Canada.
The U.S. attorney’s office announced it would hold a news conference with representatives of the FBI and Coast Guard Thursday in Anchorage to announce the filing of federal charges in the case. The Emerald Princess was diverted to Juneau because of the investigation. The ship arrived in Juneau early Wednesday, and passengers were kept on board for more than eight hours before they were allowed to disembark. While on board, some scoped out their surroundings with binoculars or took pictures of the gray, rainy scenery, while others watched the comings-and-goings in the restricted-access area leading to the ship. Some waved to onlookers on shore.
The scene was somewhat harried as people got off the boat and they tried to figure out if their shore excursion was still on, where they needed to go and if they needed to make alternate sight-seeing plans.
Suzanne Ragsdale, of Houston, said passengers were notified late Tuesday about security issues and told over the public address system Wednesday morning that there had been a death. She said being onboard for so long was “awful” and that her kids were bored.
Her family had hoped to see Mendenhall Glacier, a popular local destination, and to do some whale watching. She said she was able to rebook a whale-watching cruise for Wednesday evening. “I was hoping we’d be cruise people. We may not be after this,” she said.
Californian Zane Edwards, who was traveling with his family, said efforts were made to take care of passengers. There were games in the main atrium and movies playing in theaters, he said. Edwards said this is his first trip to Alaska, though he’s been on other cruises. “It’s like a mini city. Things are going to happen,” he said.
Kevin White, of Mesa, Arizona, said the cruise had otherwise been great. “We’re just ready to continue on,” he said. Earlier, several people, including at least one child, were escorted by authorities off the vessel in separate groups. Some were wearing white and gray hooded sweat shirts, with hoods or umbrellas in some cases obscuring their faces.
The groups were whisked away in vehicles with dark-tinted windows that waited in a restricted area of the port. No further schedule changes were expected for the cruise, which was set to leave late Wednesday bound for the southeast Alaska town of Skagway.
Conversations were underway to offer passengers compensation for lost time, such as providing credits for shore excursions, Princess Cruises spokeswoman Negin Kamali said. The FBI said it is required to step in when such deaths occur in international or U.S. waters.
Bohrer reported from Juneau, Alaska.