On the morning of May 11th, 2008 – Mother’s Day – Mindy Jordan, her boyfriend, and one other couple boarded the Norwegian Dawn in New York City for a seven day cruise to Bermuda. Just twenty-four hours later, we learned that Mindy had gone overboard and was presumed dead, leaving behind her two children and loving family.
Mindy’s two-year relationship with her boyfriend could be characterized as volatile. On several occasions, Mindy’s mother spotted and took photographs of the severe bruises that Mindy had across her body.
One incident was so severe that Mindy had to have reconstructive surgery on her face to repair a shattered eye socket that was damaged at the hands of her boyfriend.
Mindy was bursting with joy over these messages, and called her mother to tell her so. Less than twelve hours later, Mindy was gone.
While Mindy’s disappearance occurred the evening of May 11th, it was not until 11am the following day – more than twelve hours after the incident took place – that her family was notified. In fact, the cruise line did not contact Mindy’s mother who Mindy had listed as her emergency contact just the day before; rather, the boyfriend contacted Mindy’s mother and vaguely stated that there had been “an accident.” When Mindy’s mother asked what that meant, the boyfriend went on to explain that they had been “horsing around” on the balcony of their room when she accidentally fell over the railing. Devastated, Mindy’s mother asked what that meant and if Mindy were dead. Coldly the boyfriend responded “Yeah, well, she fell to the deck below and I tried to grab her but she just fell.”
In the following days, we would learn that an entirely different story had been reported by the boyfriend to the cruise line and FBI, and that security cameras would, in fact, show that the boyfriend had been in the room next door when Mindy went overboard. Of course, getting this information was an entirely different saga. After being notified by the boyfriend of Mindy’s presumed death, her mother contacted the cruise line and was referred to the Claims Department, as if Mindy were a missing piece of luggage. The Claims Department person in charge of the matter explained that she would follow up with Mindy’s mother as soon as possible – by that night, we had heard nothing.
After repeated attempts by numerous family members to find out any information possible, the Claims Department person finally contacted the family representative at 8:30pm and, with great annoyance, explained that “her file was at the office” and that “she was at her home for the evening and would have to get back to us the following day.” It was clear from this point forward that Norwegian Cruise Line was not interested in working with our family to find out what had happened to Mindy.
By the following afternoon, we had still heard nothing from the cruise line’s Claims Department representative. In fact the only response we received was from the Director of Public Relations, who, in her own words, was “caught off guard by the attention the case was receiving.” Indeed, the national media outlets had picked up on the story of Mindy’s disappearance, and their persistence for the story appeared to be the only reason that more information slowly became available.
By the following day, a media statement provided a detailed timeline of Mindy’s final hours was released. According to the cruise line’s video surveillance captured in the interior hallways of the ship, Mindy, her boyfriend, and the other couple had dinner together, and then Mindy and her boyfriend returned to their stateroom at approximately 7:28pm. Shortly after, at 7:36pm, the interior surveillance camera shows that the boyfriend left their stateroom to go next door to their friend’s adjacent room. At 7:53pm, the outside surveillance camera from the exterior of the ship captures Mindy going over her balcony, straight into the water. Within minutes, an emergency call is made from the friend’s stateroom and the boyfriend appears to exit the stateroom to seek help.
There are several issues that our family had with this information. To begin with, Mindy was barely 4’10” tall, and therefore the prospect of her accidentally falling over a railing four feet high is simply not possible. Second, Mindy was never a person who took naps; her life as a mom of two teenage children and career as a nurse always kept her on the go, and she was too excited about the cruise to have spent time napping. Third, there was a severe storm the evening of May 11th, a storm system so bad that the Coast Guard had to call off their search and rescue effort within hours of Mindy’s disappearance – so why would she ever be out on the balcony? Finally, the volatile relationship between Mindy and her boyfriend clearly makes the nature of this incident suspicious. Norwegian Cruise Lines believes that they fulfilled their responsibilities by having this boyfriend contact our family, yet completely ignored the very information that they collected for the purpose of an emergency contact.
While the FBI committed to helping our family understand what transpired to end Mindy’s life, we are left with more questions than answers. Investigators met the cruise ship in Bermuda and reportedly interviewed witnesses, examined the crime scene, and viewed the surveillance tapes. However none of this information has been shared with us. The FBI continues to state that this case is open and under investigation, but we know nothing more.
Cruise vacations are advertised to be fantasy getaways from everyday life; it is about time that these companies realize that they should have the same responsibilities and sensibilities as people in daily life. There is no good reason why U.S. citizens should not be able to expect that a cruise company would not have the proper authorities, security personnel, safety devices, and procedures in place to handle situations such as what happened to Mindy Jordan. Domestic violence does not stop when you walk onto a cruise ship, and their responsibility to work with the surviving family should be the number one priority.
The condolences of Norwegian Cruise Lines and the FBI do not return Mindy Jordan to our lives; however answers about how her life ended could at least provide us with peace.