Thursday, February 20, 2014

Honduras: US Cruise-Ship Passenger, 31, Severely Beaten, Raped, Attempted Murder

According to The Travel Agent and The Sun-Setinel, the Holland America Line has issued a statement regarding the February 14 rape and attempted murder of a 31-year-old cruise-line passenger who is a US citizen.

At the time of the attack, the Nieuw Amsterdam was visiting Roatán, Honduras.

The worker, Ketut Pujayasa, 28, confessed to raping the passenger and attempting to throw her overboard, The Sun-Setinel reports.

Although the victim's stateroom door was locked, Pujayasa gained access to the victim’s stateroom by using a company-issued master key. 

Below is Holland America Line’s full statement:

“We are terribly saddened by the senseless assault that took place on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam this past Friday, February 14. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and her family during this difficult time.

While no words can adequately express our shock at this event, this has shaken the entire Holland America family to our very core. We continue to work closely with authorities to understand how this incident occurred and what additional actions we can take to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

As confirmed through the initial investigation:

A 31-year-old female US citizen onboard the ms Nieuw Amsterdam was assaulted by a 28-year-old crewmember in her stateroom in the early morning hours of Friday, February 14.
The guest was cared for and her condition was stabilized in the ship’s hospital. She disembarked the ship on Saturday (February 15) in Roatán, Honduras, and was transferred by air to a hospital in the US.

Holland America Line is continuing to provide full support to the guest and has flown her and her family to be with her while she recovers from her ordeal.

The FBI and other relevant authorities were notified of the incident immediately. The crewmember was then placed under guard on the ship and the crime scene was secured by the ship’s officers and security personnel. He has been terminated from the company.

The former crewmember was remanded into the custody of the FBI and Broward Sheriff’s Office on Sunday (February 16) upon the ship’s scheduled return to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Holland America Line performs careful screening of all our employees. We require police clearance from the country of origin for nearly all crewmembers before they can work onboard our ships, as was done for the former crewmember involved here. In addition, all crewmembers undergo rigorous visa requirements for the routes they will be sailing. For example, virtually all of our crewmembers must obtain a visa from the US Embassy and are vetted by the US Government prior to issuance of a visa; foreign national crewmembers arrive at international airports within the US and must undergo US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) vetting against all watch lists; and all crew are subject to a full crew vetting by CBP every 90 days and subject to the same vetting as outlined above.

This individual was hired in 2012 following a careful screening that included a clean criminal history check. He had no performance issues and came with good references.

At Holland America Line, the safety of our guests is our highest priority, and we are shocked and deeply saddened by this incident,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line. “To our knowledge, no incident like this has occurred in our company’s 140-year history.”

COMMENT: Despite the fact that the Holland America Line acted so promptly in its efforts to "get ahead of the story" and be so transparent in terms of its responsibilities to its passengers.

It appears from the facts that the line has done everything humanly possible to respond proactively to this event, including medically evacuating the victim and her family to the US where they could be together. 

The line is to be congratulated for its response to this crime aboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam, which is the Holland America Line's 81st ship, which made its maiden voyage on July 4, 2010. 

The vessel can accommodate 2,106 passengers on eleven decks and has an authorized crew of 929.

Typically, most cruise-ship lines "lawyer-up" from the outset and make it difficult for law enforcement to fulfill their duties, so it is very comforting that the management of  Holland America Line does not hide behind lawyers when a crime occurs aboard one of its cruise-ships.

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam was on a seven-day western Caribbean charter cruise that departed Fort Lauderdale on February 9.

Pujayasa confessed his crimes to the FBI, saying that he attacked the 31-year-old American woman after he knocked on her door several times during a breakfast delivery and she said something to the effect, “wait a minute...son of a bitch!”

Pujayasa stated that the US passenger’s comment of "son of a bitch" was offensive to both he and his parents. 

Once inside the victim's stateroom, Pujayasa smashed her with a laptop as well as a curling iron. The man then used the curling iron cord and phone cord to choke the woman and silence her screams. 

The assailant told the FBI that it was his intention to throw the woman over the balcony as the cruise-ship traveled through Honduran waters. 

At one juncture, the victim bit the stateroom attendant’s hand, “then continued to fight for her life by all means available to her, including striking Pujayasa’s exposed genitals as well as utilizing a corkscrew in an attempt to stab him.” 

The rape victim finally managed to escape Pujayasa’s grasp and fled for the hallway, where another passenger found her dressed only in a blood-soaked tank top.

The one aspect that I would suggest that the Holland America Line review is whether all stateroom attendants need a master-pass key or whether the inherent risk of a pass-key being misused to commit a crime calls for a change in procedures that does not inhibit meal delivery and the cleaning of staterooms.