On Monday, we reported that Carnival Cruise Line reported a “suspicious death” involving a woman aboard the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship. The guest was traveling with her husband when, according to local newspaper, Channel 5 WCSC, Carnival crew members were made aware of an unresponsive woman on Feb. 27th and attempted life-saving measures, but the woman was pronounced dead on the ship.

46 U.S. Code § 3507 (The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010) requires cruise lines to report “homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, any (sexual) offense to which section 2241, 2242, 2243, or 2244(a) or (c) of title 18 applies, firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000 …”

Pursuant to this statute, Carnival reported the cruise passenger’s death on it ships as a “suspicious death.”

When the Carnival cruise ship returned to its home port in Charleston, the FBI boarded the ship and, among other investigation, began interviewing passengers who were in adjacent cabins on the ship.

Carnival’s PR team here in Miami then released a rather bizarre public statement stating that the suspicious death had already been allegedly investigated in the Bahamas. It added:

“… We are fully cooperating. This is a matter for authorities in The Bahamas and Charleston and we have no further comments.

The truth is that suspicious deaths and crimes against U.S. nationals is squarely within the “special maritime jurisdiction” of the FBI to investigate and it not remotely just a “matter for authorities in the Bahamas.” The fact of the matter is that the Bahamas has little interest, experience or skill in investigating and prosecuting crimes on cruise ships involving U.S. And I am not aware of a single crime on a cruise ship successfully investigated and prosecuted by the Bahamas.

The local police in Charleston, South Carolina has absolutely no jurisdiction to either investigate or prosecute crime on cruise ships.

I have also never seen a PR statement by Carnival Cruise Line or its parent company, Carnival Corporation, ending with “we have no further comments,” especially followed up with a statement which completely contradicts its earlier statement.

Less than twenty-four after its “no further comments” statement, and after reporting a “suspicious death” on its cruise ship, Carnival then claimed in a new PR statement that the guest’s death was “natural.” CBS News promptly reported on this obvious inconsistency between initially reporting a “suspicious death” (which was being investigated by the Bahamas) and then belatedly stating that the Carnival guest “likely died from natural causes.”

CNN also noted that the FBI processed the dead passenger’s room for evidence when the cruise ship returned to Charleston, commenting that “FBI investigating ‘suspicious death’ on Carnival cruise ship, but cruise line says death appears to be “natural.” Carnival also felt obligated to claim that its “initial emergency medical response was appropriate and it appears that this was indeed a medical situation that sadly resulted in the death of a guest.”  

Further adding to the conflict between Carnival initial statement that the suspicious death was a matter for the authorities in the Bahamas and it a “natural death” notwithstanding appropriate medical treatment was the fact that the FBI obtained two search warrants of the dead woman’s cabin on the Carnival cruise ship and the couple’s automobile based on “evidence of a crime.” Local Fox News affiliate Live 5 News reported:

Two search warrants were filed on Wednesday, one to search the cabin where a woman was found unresponsive on the Carnival Cruise Sunshine and the other to search of a Volkswagen Jetta with North Carolina plates, also on the basis of evidence of a crime.

The search warrants were obtained from a Magistrate Molly Cherry in federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina (case number 2:23-cr-00140-MHC) in the case styled USA v, Carnival Sunshine Stateroom 6271 and Volkswagen Jetta bearing NNC tag HKN 9663. The U.S. attorneys filed a motion to seal the affidavit in support of the search warrants (which was granted) because “there is reason to believe that disclosure of the information in these documents would seriously jeopardize the investigation including by giving targets the opportunity to destroy or tamper with evidence, change patterns of behavior, flee from prosecution, intimidate cooperating and potential witnesses, and endanger the safety of law enforcement and other individuals.”

The only portion of the file not under seal was the search warrant stating that it was based on “evidence of a crime.”

Federal district court judges and magistrates do not authorize search warrants or seal court files in cases of “natural death.” As Carnival flip-flops its PR statements between a suspicious death and a natural demise, thank heavens that the FBI and U.S. attorneys are treating this case seriously by interviewing witnesses, obtaining search warrants, and investigating the potential crime scene in the cabin where the guest died.

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Image credit: Carnival Sunshinelive5news