Man on QE2 reported missing

The Coast Guard was searching off the Virginia coast yesterday for a 40-year-old Maryland passenger reported missing from the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2.

The man -- identified as William Mark Bernhardt, from the Baltimore area -- apparently vanished Saturday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. while the QE2 was in the open ocean, approaching the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, said Petty Officer Al Bennett, a Coast Guard spokesman.


"We have no witnesses to say, 'Yes, the guy fell over,' " said Petty Officer Bennett. "To make it more difficult, we don't have a specific time as to when he may have went over."

Officials were not sure the man had gone overboard.


The man's mother, whom Coast Guard officials declined to identify at her request, reported her son missing about 8 p.m. Saturday. She said he was last seen about 4 p.m.

The crew conducted a head count, confirmed that Mr. Bernhardt was missing and searched the ship, Petty Officer Bennett said.

An area about 206 miles long and 10 miles wide -- around the path taken by the ship during the time Mr. Bernhardt may have disappeared -- was searched by the Coast Guard from 11 p.m. Saturday until 5:30 p.m. yesterday without finding him.

The QE2 continued on its way, sailing up the Chesapeake, docking briefly yesterday morning in Baltimore -- where Mr. Bernhardt's mother disembarked -- and continuing its voyage to New York City. A crew member reached by ship-to-shore phone yesterday afternoon declined to discuss the disappearance in detail.

"We're still actively searching for the man," the crew member said about 4 p.m. "It's a big ship. We haven't given up hope of finding him."

Priscilla Hoye, a spokeswoman for Cunard Lines, owner of the QE2, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Petty Officer Bennett said Coast Guard officials are not sure how well crew members searched the ship, which at 961 feet long is more than three times the length of a football field.

"We have been told that they conducted three thorough searches," he said.


But Petty Officer Bennett said he was not sure what the QE2 crew meant by "thorough" -- whether it was room to room, or just a general search of each deck.

It was also unclear whether Cunard officials asked for the man over the ship's public address system, said Petty Officer Bennett.

The petty officer said the mother was "holding out hope" her son was still on the ship.

Lt. John Daly, a Coast Guard officer, said last night that when the QE2 reaches New York City today, the Marine Inspections Office, the investigative arm of the Coast Guard, will go aboard and interview the crew and passengers.