Amy Bradley pictured, at left. She disappeared from the Rhapsody of the Seas years ago. There’s a reward offered for information.
We have talked at considerable length in our blog about some of the more common problems aboard cruise ships, such as accidents, injuries, problems with a shore excursion, illness, and the like. What about disappearances? It has happened quite a few times over the years. It’s not as common as cruise ship sexual assault, but there are some disturbing cases where cruisers have gone missing and there has been little to no trace after their disappearance. Is it possible that these people fell overboard? Were suicidal? Escaped a life or marriage they felt trapped in? Perhaps in some cases, but in a number of cases there is overwhelming evidence that people with no suicidal ideation, or known family problems, disappeared. Many of these people were sober and without a mitigating factor, it is highly unlikely that they simply fell overboard, without a witness.
What has led to these cruise ship disappearances? Activists who have pushed the cruise lines to hire more American labor have long argued that the foreign applicants the Cruise Lines hire are not screened carefully enough, and are often cash-desperate third world workers being entrusted with far too much responsibility.
Let us briefly look at the case Amy Lynn Bradley, which is perhaps one of the most high profile cruise ship disappearance cases in history. On March 24, 1998, Ms. Bradley was a passenger on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas; it was also the last time that anyone saw her or was able to positively identify her. After the ship arrived in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, she was reported missing. In the 14 years that have passed since then, the FBI has been on the case, but clues have been scarce. It is known that she was with a member of the ship’s band, and was also friendly with several others of the ship’s crew members. However, it is unclear if she went missing while the ship was still sailing, or if she disappeared once on land. She was seen on the ship when it was close to shore, and as she was a trained lifeguard at the time, so it is doubtful that if she had fallen overboard she couldn’t have swam to shore. Adding to the mystery is the fact that no body has ever been recovered to date.
There are two possible sightings of Ms. Bradley on Curacao off the ship; one was on the beach, the other was in a brothel. An American who had gone to the brothel in town has said that a woman approached him, identified herself as Amy Bradley and asked for help. The American sailor delayed two months in reporting the incident, and by the time the FBI investigated the incident, the brothel had burned down. That was the last credible sighting of Amy Lynn Bradley. It begs the question: Did financially desperate third world seamen sell her into sex slavery? There is no way to know for sure. The FBI still lists the case as “open.”
There’s also no way to guarantee absolute safety on board a cruise ship, though there are steps one can take to minimize personal risk. It’s the same advice you should follow if walking in a mayor metropolitan city’s downtown area late at night: Don’t walk alone, stay in well-lit areas, make sure whoever you’re traveling with knows your plans, and be aware that not everyone is as friendly as they might seem. Could the cruise lines do more to enhance safety on board a ship? YES.A cruise ship is just like a city, only it floats. The major difference is the almost total absence of security authorities that typically maintain civil order in a land setting. There are no police officers on board, and the first responders/investigators on the scene of any ship board incident are the ship’s own security personnel. Because of this, it is imperative to demand to speak with the FBI and have them independently investigate any disappearance. This is true even if someone you love only disappeared for a few hours or days, and was then found. Foul play absolutely must be ruled out, especially if there is no viable reason that the individual would have left their loved ones and disappeared.
This is even more important when it comes to teenagers. With the prevalence of cruise ship sexual assault, any time a child or teen is unaccounted for any length of time, the facts must be searched for. In one case I know of, a 12 year old victim kept her silence about a sexual assault perpetrated upon her by a member of the ship’s crew until she was 15. It’s not that people disappear constantly on board cruise ships, but the disappearances that have been reported are a troubling sign of the overall security situation on board. If you have concerns about a loved one, or someone you know who has been the subject of a cruise ship crime, including a cruise passenger disappearance, contact a lawyer experienced in handling cruise passenger disappearance cases as soon as possible.