Ohio woman on cruise is missing at sea


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- An 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 yesterday.

A passenger on the four-day excursion reported the 36-year-old woman missing at 9:30 a.m. yesterday 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," said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

Such incidents have drawn heightened attention since the unsolved disappearance last summer of George Smith IV from a Royal Caribbean International ship. Smith's 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 was traveling with family members, who last saw her several hours after the ship sailed from Calica, Mexico, which is near Playa del Carmen.

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

"We did notify the Mexican Rescue Coordination Center," Warr said, and sent a radio message to mariners in the area where the 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, Fla., was waiting to board the Imagination as investigators questioned the woman's family onboard. 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 incident.

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