SuperStar Gemini - October 7, 2015
Cruise Ship Passenger Deaths
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Cruise Ship Person Overboard
SuperStar Gemini Passenger, October 7, 2015
Time of Death 11:30
While we get cases of people overboard nearly every month, sometimes several times in the same month and we get informant tips every month, sometimes the tips are so unusual, we do a full length story about the case such as featuring much of what the informant shares. The case of Annette Mizener and this incident involving Rajkumar Agarwal have some similarities which have caught our attention, namely an informant who inserted themselves into the investigation, more than is typical. This is another one of those events we will likely quote for years to come as a, "Was it Murder or Suicide?". Family is hinting at "foul play" by a high ranking cruise ship employee wearing all white, which is a first for us.
Email Received: Thu, Oct 8, 2015 2:07:47 AM EST
An informant who was aboard SuperStar Gemini contacts us with information of a cruise ship passenger overboard.
"SuperStar Gemini: On the evening of Tuesday October 6th, an Indian male from Calcutta went overboard at 2330 as the ship was making its return trip from Lankawi Malaysia through the Malacca Straights back to Singapore.
Whether he fell or purposely jumped is uncertain but security cameras recorded the incident. His absence was not detected for several hours and by the time they had checked the cameras, it was well into Wednesday morning.
Citing corporate policy, the ship's crew repeated refused to show the video to the distraught family who became increasingly anguished. No one amongst the ship's crew sought to provide the family with resources that would have helped console them during the voyage back, so as a result, a crowd of Indian passengers also became aware and agitated.
Had the crew been properly trained, a simple prudent measure would have been to provide the family ( apparently 2 brothers and their mother) with a special room along with a counselor/staff, as well as provide simple assistance such as calling ahead to the Indian Embassy in Singapore."
We posted the case as a cruises ship overboard on Cruise Ship Deaths later in the day on October 8. The informant followed up with another couple emails expanding on the original information provided.
As posting time stamps show, we begin alerting the media and bloggers who follow some or all of our 50+ cruise and travel websites, to the event using our over 50 social media accounts for Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Email Received: 10-11-2015 10:37 AM EST
We received information from another visitor who had seen the entry on Cruise Ship Deaths. He identified himself as Parveen Agarwal, 34, brother of Rajkumar Agarwal, 30, the man who had gone overboard on SuperStar Gemini.
Two emails from Parveen Agarwal explain the family circumstances, their affluence in the community and their level of wealth as well as the family's view on what took place and how they were treated. This information, related to how the cruise line's employees responded to the situation, aligned with the information we had received from the original informant. Parveen also suggests his brother may have met with "foul play" and suggests a potential person of interest who Parveen says "had a severe fight" with his brother. There is one particular named high-ranking cruise ship officer suggested as a possibility. Parveen says, "i asked him to calm down". Since Parveen suggested foul play innvolving an officer of the cruise ship, this case warranted deeper investigation.
A check into the Facebook account of both Rajkumar Agarwal and Parveen Agarwal adds additional information, Rajkumar Agarwal posted several times on Facebook surrounding the cruise, once with a photo on deck after the cruise ship had embarked. Later, he posts again, mentioning losses in the casino on the cruise and is consoled by a few of his Facebook friends. We note that Rajkumar Agarwal has only 81 Facebook friends, his brother Parveen has 1,786 Facebook friends.
The case with Rajkumar Agarwal's name is now posted on Cruise Ship Missing, an email is sent to our informant directing him to the new page on Cruise Ship Missing. An update on the case is pushed out again on our extensive social media network. We are the first on the web to break news on the incident and then the first to name the person overboard. The investigation continues.
October 11, 2015 afternoon the first major network news article in India is posted based on an interview given by Parveen Agarwal. The interview is consumed with information on the affluence of this family and chastises the cruise line.
October 11, 2015 Bloggers who subscribe to our social media accounts begin posting the case on their pages, giving credit to sources other than us. Additional information about the family is learned. The case progression follows the same path as the Carol Ann Dimascase, almost exactly, beginning with an informant still aboard the cruise ship coming to us. But, the differences between the two cases begin to emerge.
October 12, 2015 we learn that Rajkumar, the youngest of three sons, was on the cruise with his mother Sarala, oldest brother Parveen Agarwal who is with his wife Paromita and son Viraj, along with middle son Bikash Agarwal. The family has two cabins 8081 and 8082.
On the Star Cruises website, the two cabins are listed as aft Oceanview Staterooms With Balcony on deck 8. The cabin class is the third best outside stateroom on that deck. It's on this deck our informant says he encountered the family members and cruise ship employees engaging in the conversation over missing Rajkumar Agarwal.
The news article alleges Bikash Agarwal is in cabin 8081 at 12:22, when according to one news article he hears a thud coming the balcony of cabin 8082.
Parveen says he had tried to enter cabin 8082 moments earlier, but his card wouldn't work in the lock. He then he says he knocked on the door of 8081 and spoke with his wife. The couple then left and went to the theatre. Parveen and his wife are said to be in the theatre at 12:22. Around 01:00 Parveen and his wife return from the theatre and Rajkumar is nowhere to be seen. The family sleeps until around 6:30 in the morning, looks around the cruise ship for Rajkumar, which is unsuccessful.
The family contacts the crew to tell them Rajkumar is missing. A search of the CCTV feed shows Rajkumar going overboard from his cabin at 12:22. From this point, our informant fills in the blanks into what he witnessed aboard the ship during the time an investigation into the incident was or should have been taking place.
October 12, 2015 Bikash Agarwal posts on Facebook that his brother is missing. Then, he also posts the text of a letter sent to him by another person who was also on the cruise. The text of that email is posted to Facebook with tagging to friends and family including Parveen. The email mentions it might be helpful for the family's "legal counsel".
We note the text of the Facebook email is in some sections word for word of the email our informant confided to us. It also was clear that our informant has spent an incredible amount of time researching this case, inserting himself into the case from the beginning, while at sea and after arrving home. He seemed even more aggressive in his research after we sent him a courtesy email with a link to our new case page naming the person overboard.
The following is the unedited Bikash Agarwal Facebook post and is quoted word-for-word. The post in no way conveys the opinions of Cruise Ship Deaths. As in all cases presented here, you will come to conclusions on your own.
"First off, I am very sorry about your loss and the predicament & frustration your family has been facing since last week. I was on the same trip and attaching my photo (below) so that perhaps the brother (Bikash or Parveen?) I initially met in the midship stairwell around Deck 7 or Deck 8 just after noon or so, might recognize me. (Please do not upload to social media or Internet as I try to keep a low digital profile). If he does not recognize me, I fully understand as he was naturally quite overcome with emotion.(I think I was wearing the same outfit on Wednesday October 7th when I met either Bikash or Parveen and also their Mother; the photo was taken onboard the Gemini)
Below are some recent notes I made. My initial thought was to edit it as many of the comments will sound wholly insensitive to the plight of your family. However, if you can forgive me for its brusque tone & delivery, I think the original might be more useful. Perhaps some of the information (aside from the speculation) might be useful to your family's external legal counsel.
I'm wondering how much racial/ethnic typecasting & discrimination played a role in the treatment (or lack thereof) that the Agarwal family received? That is, what if they were a well-to-do (not appearing to have descended from convicts) white family from Australia or the US... would such a family have received the same standoffish treatment that I witnessed Wednesday afternoon in the Deck 7 reception lobby?
That is, the distraught brothers with their mother surrounded by a group of Indian passengers (most who simply followed the brother I met to the Deck 7 reception lobby out of a basic interest in trying to help -- they were not related to the family etc) and met with two middle-management employees of the ship (no navy blue jackets nor white uniforms indicating upper management or officers... instead pale yellow/beige tops)... one Asian (Chinese or Japanese.. I knew there was one Japanese manager in guest services, Toku, but I don't think it was him) with crossed arms (as soon as I spotted him doing that as I approached from starboard, even without being able to hear the conversation, I groaned silently as it was a clear sign of a piss-poor attitude) and a larger Filipino staffer who stood stock-still - also poorly able to defuse the situation.
When an older Indian gentleman whom I spoke with later, indicated the ship management ought to be doing more for the family, the Filipino staffer brusquely & rudely interjected "excuse me, but are you related to the family?" Clearly he hoped his words would somehow intimidate the older man into silence but that wasn't to be. The gentleman responded simply & logically indicating "...we are all Indian..." (later when I spoke to him, he clarified his remark indicating it just wasn't 'Indians only' but as passengers, how we had a moral duty to assist one another...as human beings). He was a decent man. Shortly after the two staffers indicated they were tired of talking and had done all they could, almost sharply, certainly rudely, turned on their heels and retired to offices located behind one of the reception desks on the forward side.
I decided to approach the older gentleman, interrupting their discussion... and indicated that having worked with other embassies like the US Embassy etc., my guess was that there would be a Duty Officer at the Indian Embassy in Singapore, and with the time being early afternoon (Wed 7th), it'd be a good idea for someone to try and call them so that they'd have someone to ideally meet the family when the ship docked at 1900 in Singapore. They responded positively to my idea and tried to call out using their cell phones which didn't look promising as there was no reliable roaming service from Malaysia out in the Malacca Straight. I suggested if anyone had WiFi service (I didn't), they ought to consider a VOIP service like Skype... and I think one of them finally figured it out. By that time I left to look for my family... which I had been doing until I ran into one of the very upset brothers in the midship stairwell who basically alerted me with a cry "can anyone help me?!" Initially, I thought his brother had just gone overboard and was about to use the ship's phone to dial '25' for 'Man Overboard' but then heard more as he explained it to a nearby couple, indicating it had been almost 12 hours prior. (I was the one who recommended they proceed to the reception desk on Deck 7 as I erroneously assumed that somehow the front of office would be able to assist him and his family).
I may have mentioned this but I was dumbfounded by the lack of response by the ship's crew. For any sort of crisis like this, I would have provided the distraught family with a private room and a staffer (surely they use them for their VIP high rollin' gambling guests who get comp'd). While they might not have still been able to provide them with footage from the CCTV cameras, they could have at least provided support like using the ship's comms to call the Indian Embassy, assist with packing, processing through Immigration and overall disemarkation...
Was there a duty of care that the ship should have immediately, upon establishing Man Overboard in the late morning of Wednesday October 7th, sailed to the nearest port or even gone back to participate in search & rescue (desp@ite the low probability of survival)? Ridiculous? Well, not to the cruise ship operated by P&O that had a male passenger fall overboard at 0430 a.m. near the Isle of Wight (where the probability of survivability might be even lower due to lower water temperatures). The ship itself participated in a search & rescue operation for a few hours of a 25 sq. nautical mile area.
I don't know much about maritime law and regulations but I'm guessing that there may have been failure to report it according to whatever regulations might have existed. And, certainly, Genting Group as a Malaysian corporation, ought to have had absolutely no issue with liaising with Malaysian Coast Guard (or its equivalent). Although Genting is known primarily as an integrated resort & cruise ship operator, they do have business interests in India via their subsidiary, Genting Power: 30% owned 368MW Lanco Kondapalli power plant (Phase I), 366MW Phase II power plant and a 732MW Phase III power plant that is yet to be commissioned; 41.55% owned 113MW Lanco Tanjore power plant in Tamil Nadu and 100% owned 91.8MW Jangi wind farm in Gujarat.
Regarding alleged casino losses... I don't know the laws or regulations regarding disclosure of offshore casino gambling but surely Genting Group would know exactly how much Raj Kumar Agarwal gambled (or didn't). And, if alleging somehow gambling losses were involved, why not simply disclose it rather than imply it?
The revenues from the casino, most people do not realize, can be more significant than the revenues from the room tariffs & F&B. Basically at under 1500 passengers, the ship reports about 1/4th the business of its larger cousins... however, once in a while, in that 3-4 day voyage you get a 'whale'. For example, $4 million USD in losses for one punter on one trip... how is this known by even someone like me? Any staff on board can look up a guest on the computers and such information becomes widely known amongst the crew - and by simply engaging the crew during the trip,I was able to uncover these tidbits. However to lose that much, you likely need to have had an established account with the casino... and, I highly doubt the young Rajkumar Agarwal was that kind of punter!...most of these big spenders/high rolling gamblers (with money to lose or in many cases, to launder) are from mainland china (PRC)... my Singaporean Chinese guide indicated to me "... ah, probably a Chinaman..." Looking at my puzzled reaction ('Chinaman' is basically a perjorative term in almost every context that I can imagine), he clarified "PRC"... and then explained that's how they referred to the mainlanders. If anything, there is an absolute lack of political correctness in SE Asia... that's almost refreshing, if not blunt. Also below are shots of the crew directory from the Deck 7 reception (also attached):" The posted emails ends here.
While we wouldn't divulge word for word what the informant originally said to us in every email he sent us, we have no problem posting the entire Facebook post seen above, made public by Bikash Agarwal, as it's in the public domain.
The number of Facebook friends Bikash Agarwal has in his Facebook friends list is hidden from public view. On posts made by Rajkumar, October 2-4, Bikash is listed as liking some of the posts.
There is a cover photo on Bikash Agarwal's Facebook page which is a selfie photo of himself, his brother Parveen, Parveen's wife and son along with the brothers' mother sitting inside a sky tram on October 4, 2015 as the family heads to the cruise ship. Rajkumar isn't in the photo and the sky bucket appears full. Rajkumar liked that photo and also took a photo from a sky tram bucket on October 4, which shows a long distance, poor visibility, drab city view and is described as "sentosa island". There is nobody from their family in that photo. The last photo Rajkumar posts to Facebook is on deck aboard the cruise ship.
October 13, 2015
- Star Cruises has publicly said, "Star Cruises confirms a 30-year-old Indian national, who was travelling with his family onboard Super Star Gemini, was reported missing on 7 October, and is suspected to have fallen overboard as the ship was in the Strait of Malacca en route to Singapore. Upon Super Star Gemini's return to Singapore on 7 October, the Singapore Coast Guard also boarded the ship to conduct a further examination." Star Cruises also claimed they reported the incident to the Marine Rescue Coordination Center in Malaysia for search and rescue operations.
Parveen claims the Singapore Police told him the video footage of the deck was blurred and it could not be verified if Rajkumar went overboard. The family demands to see the video and both Bikash and Paveen have asked us to help get the word out they want to see the video.
Numerous reports are now saying the family believes Rajkumar has been held captive aboard the cruise ship, after the "severe fight" he had with the cruise ship officer. They say Rajkumar didn't have the key to the cabin and couldn't possibly have accessed the cabin then jumped overboard.
To view all photos and associated details in this case now and as they are updated, follow our Cruise Bruise Rajkumar Agarwal Pinterest board.