Elderly passenger on cruise ship bound for San Diego falls overboard

Incident occurred on Holland America's MS Veendam

SAN DIEGO - Cruise ship passengers spoke with 10News Monday about the mysterious death of a woman on a ship bound for San Diego. The FBI is now investigating how the woman fell overboard.  

Several San Diego passengers boarded the Holland America ship for a seven-day cruise to Mexico. Many are still shocked one of the passengers on the cruise never made it back alive.

Nearly 2,000 passengers and crewmembers were aboard Holland America's MS Veendam cruise ship last Friday.

Many of them were celebrating the New Year when something went terribly wrong.

"You could hear that the ship was stopping and turned about so you knew it was serious," said passenger Patricia English.

She says she heard a loud alarm then saw a bright flare.

Passenger Gary Schmidt says moments later, he heard a startling announcement.

"I think it was the captain that said, 'Man overboard. Crew members, go to your stations,'" said Schmidt.

English added, "There were other announcements, you know, 'please move away from the life boats because we're going to put some of them down to go look.'"

The ship was nearly 300 miles southwest of San Diego when another guest saw an 88-year-old Canadian woman go overboard.

The Medical Examiner has ruled the death a suicide, but one passenger who watched it all told 10News there is more to the story.

The witness did not want to be identified but says he saw the elderly woman climb out on her balcony and appeared to lean over the rail to jump, but when she turned around to go back inside she slipped and fell.

"The captain said everybody go to your cabins because they wanted to take a head count," said Schmidt.  

Rescuers pulled the woman from the water but it was too late. The passengers say the trip continued about two hours later.

The woman's identity has not been released, but Holland America says they are assisting her family during this tough time.

"It is very tragic and for the family involved," said English.

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