Coast Guard investigating how woman fell off cruise ship in Alaska; search suspended

JUNEAU, Alaska — Members of the Coast Guard are trying to determine how a woman fell off a Seattle-based cruise ship and into frigid waters in Alaska.

It happened in the Inside Passage on Tuesday. The woman still hasn’t been found.

Passengers on the cruise that left from Seattle said they were stunned.

According to the Coast Guard, the incident was the first in at least three years that someone had went overboard on an Alaskan cruise.

The captain of the Celebrity Solstice reported the woman missing at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was early in the morning and the ship came to a complete stop and the Coast Guard was flying around,” passenger Natasha Nelson Stubbs said.

Stubbs was one of the many passengers who were jolted awake when the ship made a sudden stop.

Coast Guard members said they spent the next nine hours searching for the missing passenger, but she was not found. That, coupled with an estimated survival time of 6.19 hours in the water, led the Coast Guard to suspend the search.

“What you’re going to experience in cold water like that is cold water shock, which basically causes a heart attack,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Ally Blackburn said.

According to investigators, the ship’s security cameras caught the moment the victim fell into the water.

“(It’s) very sad and very tragic that something like this would happen when everyone’s having such a good time,” Stubbs said.

It’s not yet known how she fell overboard.

“My family and I all sat around and said, ‘Who did we see? Did we see anyone alone? Who was this?’” Stubbs said.

Investigators said the woman who fell into the water is in her 40s. Her identity and where she is from have not been released.

The Celebrity Solstice ended up continuing its journey.

The ship will dock in Seattle on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.