Carnival Cruise Passenger Missing

Authorities believe Ohio woman, 36, fell off ship


Sep. 12--A 36-year-old Ohio woman on a cruise to Key West and Mexico apparently fell from the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Imagination as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico to return to Miami, authorities said Monday.

A passenger on the four-day excursion reported the woman, whose identity was not released, missing at 9:30 a.m. Monday as the ship docked at the Port of Miami.

Her family last saw her in her room at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, when the ship was at sea.

"We do not suspect foul play," FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.

Such incidents have drawn heightened attention since the unsolved disappearance last summer of George Smith IV from a Royal Caribbean International ship. Smith's widely publicized case led to Congressional hearings on how cruise lines handle the investigation and reporting of shipboard crimes.

In a statement, Carnival said the Ohio woman had been traveling with family members, who last saw her early in the morning on Sunday, several hours after the ship had sailed from Calica, Mexico, which is near Playa del Carmen.

Coast Guard spokesman Dana Warr said Monday that there were no planes or vessels launched to search for the woman because it had been nearly 36 hours since anyone had last seen her.

"We did notify the Mexican Rescue Coordination Center," Warr said, and sent a radio message to mariners in the area where Imagination sailed Sunday.

The message asked fishing, cargo and other vessels to call the Coast Guard if they see anything unusual. The area is about 400 miles from Miami, Warr said.

Penny Russell, 38, of Port St. Lucie, was waiting to board the Imagination as investigators questioned the woman's family onboard Monday afternoon. Russell, who has taken six cruises, was headed to the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.

"That's a sad thing," she said upon learning of the missing Ohio woman.

Several people have vanished from cruise ships this year, most recently a 22-year-old who fell from a Royal Caribbean ship off the coast of Italy in July. The body of Elizabeth Galeana, of Naples, Fla., was found near an island between Naples, Italy and Rome.

In May, Daniel DiPiero, 21, of Canfield, Ohio, fell off a Royal Caribbean ship in the Bahamas after a night of drinking. A digital security recording showed DiPiero going overboard at 2:16 a.m.

A group, International Cruise Victims, was formed in January to highlight unsolved disappearances from cruise ships.

The International Council of Cruise Lines, an industry trade group, said earlier this year that 24 passengers were reported missing from its 15-member lines between 2003 and 2005.

In June, Rep. Christopher Shays, R.-Conn., introduced the Cruise Line Accurate Safety Statistics Act in Congress. One of its provisions would require a ship's captain to notify the Department of Homeland Security within four hours of learning of a crime, man overboard or missing person on any ship that docks at a U.S. port.

A spokeswoman for Shays said the bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.