Imagine you’re in your early 20’s — good-looking, athletic and ready to take the world by the horns. Now imagine that someone comes along and offers you a job on their $200 million yacht, which will undoubtedly result in you traveling around the world. The only catch: you need to travel with them for the next few months or so. It sounds almost too good to be true, and in one Instagram model’s case, may have turned out to be exactly that.
In recent years, bored billionaires have begun building these humongous luxury vessels and crewing them with beautiful young people to keep them company on their worldwide voyages. Unfortunately, not all oceanic adventures have a happy ending.
Sinead McNamara, 20, was the type of free-spirited, adventurous soul who would absolutely have taken any opportunity she could in order to see the world. Beautiful both inside and out, McNamara grew up in the New South Wales’ Port Macquarie region on the east coast of Australia. She found her niche when she began posting pictures to Instagram.
McNamara had dreams of being a model and traveling the world. Instagram offered her the perfect outlet for both of those things. Her Instagram account garnered more than 25,000 followers, but it was in her native Sydney that she first met the man who would give her the opportunity to see even more of the world than she ever thought possible.
Alberto Bailleres, the 87-year-old Mexican billionaire, first sailed his $200 million yacht, the Mayan Queen IV, into Sydney in 2011. It was a frequent stop for him as he made his way through the Pacific. Bailleres first made his money in mining and by 2017 was estimated to be worth $11 billion, making him the 143rd wealthiest person in the world.
It was during one of these Sydney stops when McNamara first received the offer to work on Bailleres’ yacht. From mainland Australia, the Mayan Queen IV traveled to Bermuda, Bali and the Whitsunday Islands. After that, it headed to Greece, and this is where McNamara’s final adventure truly began.
McNamara joined a growing subset of young people who, enticed by the perceived glamor of the super rich, ventured onto the high seas. It’s a sector that employs more than 37,000 people globally; many of them young and unattached. Who could blame them though? The spas, on-ship theaters, multi-level swimming pools, and bottomless top-shelf liquor would be hard for anyone to resist.
Touring the Mediterranean
The Mayan Queen IV was touring the Mediterranean when it pulled up to the Greek island of Kefalonia. McNamara was having the time of her life. She even said as much in a post on her travel-centric Instagram account: “Living & working on a boat seeing all that the world has to offer. Yep, I think I have it pretty good.”
Did McNamara “have it pretty good” or had she been just one more victim of an illusory lifestyle she had unwittingly found herself a part of? That final Instagram post, posted mere days before her mysterious death, would become a far more ominous statement than either McNamara or any of her fans could have realized.
On Friday August 31st, 2018, another crew member found McNamara unconscious on the back of the Mayan Queen IV. She appeared to be tangled in a rope and was completely unresponsive when the crew member tried to rouse her. McNamara was still alive, but they needed to get her to a doctor as quickly as possible.
Airlifted too Late
The onboard doctor was called in to examine her. Knowing that she needed more intensive care, the doctor had the crew call in a helicopter to take her to a nearby hospital. She was loaded into the aircraft and flown from the yacht. Unfortunately, McNamara never made it to the hospital. She died mid-flight.
Oddly enough, no one on the yacht seemed to know what happened. Bailleres wasn’t even on the boat when the incident occurred. He and his family had left the yacht a few days before McNamara was found. The question remains: who, if anybody, is responsible for McNamara’s death?
Meeting the Family
While the Grecian police began the investigation, McNamara’s family mourned their loss. Tragically, her mother and sister had actually been traveling to Greece on vacation when the news of her death went viral on the Internet. They were coming to meet her after having been apart for so many months.
As the family mourned, so too did the Internet, which rallied in support and joined in their sorrow. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the family as they make arrangements to send her body home. McNamara’s more than 25,000 Instagram followers made tributes over social media and flooded her account with condolences.
It seemed that McNamara inspired many people with her zest for life and adventure. “You lived life with no fear and it’s a blessing to have known you,” wrote one of her good friends. Another added that “Everyone should take a page from Sinead’s book – where she was meant to have a holiday in Bali that turned into a year and a half trip sailing across the world.”
Australian YouTuber Alex Hayes, who has just north of 650,000 Instagram followers and is also one of McNamara’s close friends, shared a tribute via Instagram story. “Life is so precious,” he wrote in the tribute. “Gone way too soon. Such a beautiful human being. Will cherish all our memories.” Tributes and condolences aside, the police still don’t know what happened.
Greek authorities have since launched an investigation into McNamara’s final hours on the boat. Their first step was to examine all of the yacht’s closed-circuit cameras. This will prove to be a difficult task given the size of the multi-level ship, so they’ve instead moved to questioning the staff.
No Longer Held
No crew member seemed to know what had happened or what led McNamara to be tangled in rope off the back of the vessel. The 93-meter yacht was held for a few days during the initial investigation, but has since been allowed to leave port. Still, police are trying to determine what, if anything, could have happened in the past four months leading to this tragedy.
There are some questions about the case and McNamara’s position on the ship that plague the police. The first of these has to do with McNamara’s job, no one seems clear on what it was exactly. There are rumors that her position was simply to be eye candy for the wealthy boat owner and his guests.
Cause of Death
The official cause of death released by the coroner is that McNamara died as a result of hanging. This is an initial finding, however, and results from subsequent tests in the coming months could come up with additional answers. Even if she did die from hanging, who hanged her? Or was this alleged hanging merely an accident?
The only people on board the night of McNamara’s death were the rest of the crew and McNamara herself. No one saw her fall so it’s entirely possible that nothing criminal happened at all, though there is bound to be suspicion. It’s very possible that McNamara slipped and fell, becoming tangled on the way down in a possible, albeit unlikely, boating accident.
Another curious detail about McNamara’s death is a comment she posted three days before her demise. The post alludes to her feeling worried: “My head is all over the shop today … take me back to … where my only worry was not cracking my skull open.” Had something happened to cause McNamara to fear for her life?