Dilek Ertek, a wealthy 71-year-old Turkish distributor for the luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co., fell to her death off of a Norwegian cruise ship on October 26th under mysterious circumstances, The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
Her body has not yet been recovered, and experts are reportedly stumped over the puzzle of how the 5’2” Ertek could have fallen over a 3-foot-high guard rail on the ship into the South Pacific off the coast of Tahiti. Her son, Gokce Atuk, said jewelry had gone missing from the safe in his mother’s cabin, the Mail reported.
Ertek had been celebrating her birthday on the Norwegian Spirit ship during a South Sea Islands holiday with a partner at the time of her death.
According to Turkish news source Hürriyet Daily News, CCTV footage from the cruise ship indicates that Ertek fell from the ocean liner at around 3 a.m. on the morning of the 26th. Her 74-year-old partner did not report her missing until 20 hours later, prompting the ship’s crew to keep the unnamed Swiss man under observation until the ship docked in Tahiti three days later, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
“Balconies are made entirely of glass and have railings. Their height easily reaches the chest level of a medium-sized person.”
— Unnamed ship officer
Ertek’s partner was next questioned by Tahiti police before ultimately being released due to lack of evidence, the Daily Mail reports, and Ertek’s lawyers are now filing suit against the operator of the cruise ship, as well as arguing that is the responsibility of the country of Tahiti to continue leading the investigation into the circumstances of her death.
According to the Turkish news outlet Sabah, an unnamed officer working on the Norwegian Spirit Cruise ship has been speaking out about Ertek’s death on social media. “Safety on board is a really important issue,” the officer reportedly said. “Precautions are taken into consideration right from the shipbuilding phase. Balconies are made entirely of glass and have railings. Their height easily reaches the chest level of a medium-sized person. It is not possible to fall. In order to jump, you need to make an effort because it is not easy to put your foot on [the balcony]. You have to get on [a] chair. It’s also unlikely that someone intoxicated will fall.”
Ertek reportedly began building her fortune in 1995 when she opened the first Tiffany & Co. store in Istanbul, Turkey, and went on to serve as the key distributor of the brand’s luxury jewels in her home country for more than two decades.
“On Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2022, Norwegian Spirit was notified that a 68-year-old female guest went overboard while the ship was sailing in the Pacific Ocean on its way to French Polynesia,” a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “The authorities were notified and the United States Coast Guard conducted a search and rescue operation. The investigation is ongoing and we will share updates as appropriate. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.”
The Daily Beast reached out to Tiffany & Co. for comment.