Owen Davies from the Southampton Police Department said that they would still investigate but that they’d be handling a lot of other cases as well. In Hamburg, police investigated Sabine’s medical history and found no sign of physical or psychological illness. So, what happened to Sabine L.? “Of course there are chances it was suicide, even if the chances are small“, the relative said, “the chances are better it was an accident or a crime. No matter how bad it is what happened, I just want to know. It’s the uncertainty that keeps you awake and won´t give you closure.”
Park Avenue contacted Ingo Thiel, responsible for Cunard´s Public Relations in Germany, to find out any details we could about the case. As far as the cruise line is concerned, the case is closed and the police in Southampton are in charge now. “We had helicopters from Portugal and airplanes from Ireland searching, and we had the QE2 turned around. There is nothing more that could have been done,” said Thiel, “You should consider how much all of that was.”
Sabine L. might have committed suicide. Maybe Merrian Carver and the other missing people did, too. But consider this: Aren’t there simpler ways for one to commit suicide? It should also be mentioned that security on board those giant ships is questionable. To find out how these floating theme parks and their passengers are taken care of, Park
Avenue sent a questionnaire to Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Hapag Lloyd, Aida and Color Line. We asked such questions as: How many security guards are on board? How and where are they trained? How do you secure your passengers from terrorists? Where is the crew from? What kinds of wages does the crew earn, and who supervises crew members?
Only two cruise lines answered. Aida and Hapag Lloyd sent emails, bragging about their cruises and stating that security is not an issue, but that they would not be able to go into any details. There was no word about where the crew members are from, how much they are being paid, or how they are trained. Terry Dale, president of Cruise Lines International Association(CLIA) from the cruise capitol of the world, Miami, said, “Security personnel include former soldiers who are trained well. The security of the passengers is the highest priority on board.”
This is what “highest priority” in reality looks like: The Brich family, booked a three-day cruise from Kiel, Germany to Oslo round trip, on the Color Fantasy of Color Line Company. The ship had a car deck, a spa, a gym and many restaurants. There is also a casino for the 2750 passengers. For all of this, the Brichs believed they were getting a great bargain and booked two tickets for 99€ each online. On November 4, 2007, they arrived at the terminal to pick up their tickets. Since Mrs. Brich didn't bring her passport, Mr. Brich went to the ticket booth alone. He showed confirmation of the reservation and received the tickets. He was not required to show any identification for himself or his wife. On board is a small gate that opens when you swipe the ticket. There was no metal detector, no x-ray technology, and nobody to check out your clothes or luggage. At 2:00pm sharp the ship left the pier. If, instead of Mrs. Brich, a terrorist, gangster, or drug dealer was traveling with Mr Brich, no one would have been the wiser.
They arrived in Oslo the next morning at 9:00. The Brichs got off the ship and left their luggage behind. What if there had been a bomb in their luggage??
“People get on board and think, ‘If something happens, I will just call the police,’ But there are no police out on the ocean,“ Charles Lipcon writes in his book Unsafe on the High Seas. The lawyer from Miami has helped many victims of cruise ship crimes. The list of victims on his website, CruiseBruise.Com grows longer and longer everyday. His clients are not only family members of missing people, but also women and children assaulted and raped by crew members, and passengers who had fallen ill on board and received poor or no treatment. Lipcon says, “On board a ship with more than 2500 passengers there is one supervisor for eight security officers, who work in shifts, so that not more than four are on-duty at one time.“ Other experts also agree that the missing are most likely victims of crimes committed by the crew.
The BBC documentary, The Price of Fun, reported that employees like bartenders, housekeepers, and others often come from third world countries. To obtain jobs on ships, they often buy themselves into it with up to $2000 under the table. Though cruise lines claim their crews are well rested, most of them work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and up to ten months with no break.
Their wages are often less than $50 a month. They rely on tips and that is how they provide for their families. To add insult to injury, crew members tend to be surrounded by passengers who bring lots of money on board, and wear expensive jewelry while they gamble in the casino. It’s a case of first world meeting third world. One is living it up while the other is struggling to survive.
Back at the restaurant, Son Michael Pham takes only a sip of the soup. Before his parents’ disappearance, he says he was a good eater. To Pham’s advantage, the suicide theory, that is too often used by the cruise lines, does not fit his parent’s case at all. Their story is simply too extraordinary.
On April 30, 1975, the last day of the Vietnam war, Saigon fell into the hands of the Communists. This was a death sentence to Hue Pham, a General, his wife, who was working for an American-owned company, and their five children. Hue Pham strapped his little daughter and Son Michael with his disabled brother, a polio survivor, on his back, and they fled. In the harbor of Saigon, they jumped onto a container ship. They were without food and water for two weeks when the ship was discovered by the United States Air Force. The Phams were brought to a fugitive camp in the U.S. where they were eventually adopted by a Catholic community in Chicago.
“My Dad had to repair railroad tracks by hand on his knees and my Mom worked in a assembly plant, but none of that mattered because we were finally free,“ says Michael Pham, “Why would the sea save my parents only to take their lives 30 years later? Can you explain that to me?“ The Phams knew a thing or two about survival and therefore settled in quickly. When they retired, his parents moved to Orange County, California, and lived in a small town with other Vietnamese people. In November of 2004, Son Michael Pham’s biggest wish had come true. His parents wanted to return to Vietnam for the first time in 30 years to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. For Mother´s Day, Son Michael and his sister, Sharon presented their parents with the gift of a cruise!