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Cruise Line Calls Overboard Alaska Passenger an Apparent Suicide

August 10, 2009 By: Alexia Dellner

The passenger aboard the Zaandam, whose body was found last Monday just off Douglas Island, appeared to have committed suicide, a Holland America spokeswoman has said.

Alaska authorities have conducted interviews and reviewed security camera footage aboard the cruise ship after the body of Amber Malkuch, 45, turned up in the icy waters off the island near the capital.

"Based on evidence and information to date, it does not appear to be foul play," Holland America spokeswoman Sally Andrews said from Seattle. "From what we have seen to date, it appears to be a suicide."

But Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said troopers were not yet willing to conclusively point to a cause of death. An autopsy will be conducted in Anchorage, authorities said. "We still have to do our investigation, and we're not going to make any guesses at this time," Peters said.

The Arlington, WA, resident had been reported missing earlier in the day by a traveling companion when the Zaandam was in Glacier Bay National Park, about 75 miles northwest of Juneau. She was last seen about 12:30 a.m. after she ordered room service, when the vessel was near Douglas Island. Malkuch's body was found after a search stretching over 80 miles. The crew of a commercial helicopter operated by Ketchikan-based TEMSCO Helicopters that was helping in the search found the body at about 4:30 p.m. on the west side of Douglas Island — about 12 miles northwest of where the passenger was last seen, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dana Warr.

An extensive search also was conducted on the 780-foot Zaandam. The ship has a capacity for about 1,430 passengers and 600 crew members. Warr said there was no indication that any of the Zaandam's survival gear was missing.

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