Despite denials from ferry officials, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading a criminal investigation into allegations of an assault aboard the Sundance Queen, according to U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Ricardo Castrodad.
A ferry full of tourists and residents returning from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands aboard Inter-island Boat Services’ Sundance Queen on Thursday afternoon, January 3, were horrified when the captain of the vessel pushed and then punched a female crew member, according to passengers.
Although ferry personnel denied having any contact with FBI officials (see Letter to the Editor on page 19), Castrodad confirmed both USCG and FBI officials are looking into the case.
“There are two proceedings,” said Castrodad, who was unable to comment on specifics of the ongoing investigation. “The Coast Guard is conducting an administrative investigation in regards to a suspension or revocation of license proceedings against the master of the vessel.”
“On the criminal side, the FBI is doing their own investigation and will determine at what point, if any, they will present their case to the Attorney General’s office,” the USCG spokesperson continued.
The two agencies are cooperating on the investigations, Castrodad added.
“The Coast Guard has a role and we are conducting an investigation,” he said. “But in a criminal case like this possible assault case, the FBI has jurisdiction.”
VIPD Has No Jurisdiction
The V.I. Police Department, however, does not have jurisdiction in this case because the incident occurred off-shore, according to ferry officials.
“A lot of people on the ferry were upset that the police didn’t do anything, but they can’t,” said Sara Puterbaugh, operations manager for Inter-island Boat Services. “They must respect the agency with jurisdiction in the case and the Coast Guard has jurisdiction.”
The ferry company is conducting its own investigation into the incident and the captain has been suspended, the operations manager explained.
“He is suspended and our own investigation is continuing,” said Puterbaugh. “Several passengers made reports to the Coast Guard and we have requested copies of those reports. We would rather have the facts out there than people speculating about rumors.”