Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Cruise Passenger

Published December 29, 2008

| FoxNews.com

The U.S. Coast Guard halted its search Monday for a cruise-ship passenger believed to have fallen into the Gulf of Mexico as the FBI continues its investigation on how she disappeared.

Jennifer Seitz was reported missing just before 5 a.m. EST Friday on the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship by her husband. The ship was sailing off of Cancun, Mexico, at the time of her disappearance, and Coast Guard officials said surveillance footage showed a woman, believed to be Seitz, falling from the ship.

"We're looking to see if a crime was committed on the high seas," FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said.

FBI agents spoke to the missing woman's husband when they met the ship at the dock on Sunday, and the FBI collected materials on the scene.

Norwegian Cruise Line told FOXNews.com that it was cooperating fully with the investigation.

The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday afternoon. It had used a C-130 aircraft to search for Seitz. Officials said it was standard procedure.

"The Coast Guard and Mexican navy conducted an exhaustive search for Jennifer Seitz, but have not located her," said Capt. Dean Lee, Seventh Coast Guard District chief of staff. "Our thoughts are with Jennifer Seitz's family and friends during this difficult time."

Seitz and her husband, Ray, are from Winter Haven, Fla., and had taken the cruise to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.

Jennifer Seitz was a former reporter for the Melbourne-based newspaper Florida Today.

Her family issued a statement Monday saying that although she "was in a very happy and uplifted mood both before and during the cruise," she "has had previous emotional issues."

"The family suspects that Jennifer chose an unfortunate ending to her life," according to the family's statement. "She was a beautiful and caring person and will be truly missed by all who love her."

The missing woman was a temporary pollworker in Polk County from June through November, an official tells FOX News.

"We are deeply upset at the fact that she is missing," said Judy Walker, the director of community services with the Polk County elections office. "We certainly pray that she is found safely, and our hearts and prayers go out to the family that they find her safely."

Mexico's Fifth Naval Regional Command said in a statement it had found no sign of Seitz. The search was taking place just over 17 miles east of Cancun and beyond. Crews have covered more than 2,500 square miles searching for Seitz.

Norwegian Cruise Line said the ship returned to Miami Sunday after a seven-day western Caribbean cruise.

FOXNews.com's Sara Bonisteel, FOX News' Kathleen Reuschle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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