Halifax Authorities Investigate Cruise Passenger Disappearance

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Authorities are investigating a cruise passenger disappearance in Canada that involved an elderly woman. Halifax Regional Police has asked the public for help in locating a 70-year-old U.S. citizen whom they believe may have walked off a cruise ship that was visiting the region. The passenger, Louisiana resident Sarah Tessier Powell, was last seen Sept. 30 on the Holland America cruise ship Veendam, as it sailed on an itinerary from Quebec City to Charlottetown. The cruise ship was scheduled to stop again in Charlottetown on Oct. 2, Sydney on Oct. 3 and Halifax on Oct. 4.

Police do not believe foul play was involved in the cruise ship passenger disappearance and suspect she may have walked off the ship without being checked by security personnel. Authorities have not confirmed whether Powell disembarked the vessel. Powell was traveling alone, so there were no family members or friends onboard that could have verified her whereabouts.

“She was last seen by a crew member onboard the ship, so it took time for them to realize she was not on board the ship anymore,” said Halifax Regional Police Const. Pierre Bourdages Tuesday. “She left the ship without the crew’s knowledge or security’s knowledge onboard.”

Erik Elvejord, a spokesman for Holland America, added that a ship-wide search was conducted to find Powell.

“Per marine regulation and protocol, Transport Canada/Canadian Coast Guard (TC/CGG), United States Coast Guard, FBI, RCMP and local law enforcement authorities were contacted with all known information,” said Elvejord in an emailed statement. “An investigation is ongoing.”

Halifax Regional Police expressed concern for Powell’s well-being because she requires medication and may become agitated without it. She is described as being five feet six inches tall, thin and with brown, shoulder-length hair.

When a passenger or crewmember goes missing from a cruise ship, yacht or other vessel on the high seas, an investigation must be initiated immediately. Because information regarding cruises passenger disappearances is not always revealed by cruise line companies, it is unclear exactly how many times these tragic incidents occur. Furthermore, because ships dock in so many different countries, obtaining the information from their respective governments is not easy. When a passenger or crewmember is reported missing, cruise authorities should immediately be sent to the flag country of the vessel, but governments don’t always cooperate. The ship authorities themselves are also responsible – and required – to conduct their own search and rescue. If the individual is not found onboard, then the vessel must return to the location at sea or the port where the person was last seen. If the individual went overboard, there is a much better chance of them being rescued if a search is conducted as quickly as possible, as opposed to letting hours go by. Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens.

Many times, several hours elapse before a search is initiated and the lives of those who have gone missing from their ship are placed at risk. The failure to perform a reasonable search and rescue can render the cruise ship company liable for the disappearance of the individual. Anyone who has had a loved one disappear from a cruise ship should seek legal help immediately to protect their rights. Our cruise accident lawyers work diligently to make sure a case is filed on behalf of the missing person and will fight so that anyone responsible for the disappearance is held accountable for their actions.