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Arlington woman goes missing from cruise ship in Alaska

ARLINGTON — Arlington resident Amber Malkuch's body has been found, after she went missing from a cruise ship in Alaska between the evening of Aug. 2 and the morning of Aug. 3, but much remains unknown about the circumstances of her death.

Malkuch, 45, was last seen alive on board the Holland America Line cruise ship Zaandam at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 3, after she ordered room service, when the vessel was near Alaska's Douglas Island. She was reported missing by a traveling companion on the morning of Aug. 3, when the Zaandam was in Glacier Bay National Park, roughly 75 miles northwest of Juneau.

After a search stretching more than 80 miles, Malkuch's body was found at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 3, by the crew of a commercial helicopter, operated by Ketchikan-based TEMSCO Helicopters. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dana Warr said that Malkuch's body was found on the west side of Douglas Island, about 12 miles northwest of where Malkuch was last seen alive. The Coast Guard confirmed Malkuch's identity with an ID found on her body, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon-Paul Rios.

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said that troopers met the cruise ship when it docked in Sitka Aug. 4, reviewed footage from the Zaandam's security cameras, and talked to Malkuch's companion, as well as to other passengers, to try and explain how Malkuch disappeared off the vessel.

Warr said there was no immediate sign that any of the Zaandam's survival gear was missing.

"Based on evidence and information to date, it does not appear to be foul play," Holland America spokesperson Sally Andrews said from Seattle. "From what we have seen to date, it appears to be a suicide."

Peters said that troopers were not yet willing to point to a cause of death conclusively. An autopsy will be conducted in Anchorage, according to authorities.

"We still have to do our investigation, and we're not going to make any guesses at this time," Peters said.

Amber Malkuch's ex-brother-in-law, Scott Malkuch, last saw Amber at a graduation party in June, and has issued a statement on behalf of her family.

"We, as Amber's family, are deeply saddened by her death," Scott Malkuch wrote. "She was a loving mother, daughter, sister, niece and cousin who had a very kind and generous nature. We will miss her terribly as will her many friends. We recognize that there has been a great deal of speculation as to the nature of Amber's death. Knowing Amber as we do, we do not believe that she took her own life. Although no one will ever know what actually occurred the night Amber disappeared from the ship, we nonetheless believe that Amber's death was of an accidental nature. Thank you to all who have expressed your concern and condolences."

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