Alaska Cruise Ship Mystery: Woman's Body Found

(Holland Line Inc.)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CBS/AP) A vacation cruise in Alaska's stunning waters turned into a deadly nightmare for a woman who went overboard Monday. Only hours earlier, she had ordered room service as the vessel neared Douglas Island.

And then, she was simply gone.

A person she shared a cabin with reported her missing some time later.

A search ensued. The coast guard was called in.

Now, authorities believe they have found the body of the missing woman, who they have identified as 45-year-old Amber Malkuch of Washington state, Alaska State Troopers said.

Foul play? We just don't know yet, although authorities have said there are no signs of foul play at this point.

Malkuch was reported missing by a travelling companion Monday morning when the Holland America ship Zaandam was in Glacier Bay National Park, about 75 miles northwest of Juneau. She was last seen hours earlier after she ordered room service, when the vessel was near Alaska's Douglas Island.

A woman's body was found Monday afternoon after a massive search but trooper's spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said it hadn't been positively identified. However, Coast Guard Lt. Nathaniel Johnson in Juneau said Monday night his agency has suspended its search.

Malkuch was travelling on a seven-day cruise that left Seattle on Friday.

State troopers planned to meet the cruise ship when it docks Tuesday in Sitka, Ipsen said, adding they would be talking to the woman's companion and anyone else who could help explain how she disappeared off the vessel.

The body was taken to Juneau for positive identification. Ipsen said an autopsy would be standard procedure.

The crew of a commercial helicopter that was helping in the search found the body Monday afternoon on the west side of Douglas Island, about 12 miles northwest of where the passenger was last seen, Chief Petty Officer Dana Warr said.

Warr said there was no immediate sign of foul play or indication that any of the Zaandam's survival gear was missing.

Footage from the ship's security cameras will likely be reviewed, Warr said, adding much remains unknown about the circumstances of the disappearance.

Seattle-based Holland America Line said in a statement that the woman was reported missing at about Monday morning by the person she was sharing a room with. Warr said it was unclear why that person didn't report her missing earlier.

Holland America spokeswoman Sally Andrews did not return several calls late Monday seeking additional information, including confirmation of Malkuch's hometown.

Ipsen said she did not have a hometown for the missing woman.

The Zaandam has a capacity for about 1,430 passengers and 600 crew members.

Monday's search, which included a Coast Guard helicopter, focused on a vast region surrounding Douglas Island and the national park, which are 80 miles apart, Warr said. The glacier-fed waters in the area are 57 F.