The search for a man who fell overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship had been suspended, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Saturday.
Rescuers covered 931 square nautical miles in search for the missing 35-year-old Brazilian passenger who plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean about 1 a.m. Friday.
“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones and all that have been affected by this tragedy,” said Capt. Todd Coggeshall, Coast Guard 7th District chief of response management.
The Oasis of the Seas was traveling 17 miles east of the Turks and Caicos Islands when the man fell overboard, according to a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman. Authorities have not yet released the man’s identity.
Rescue efforts by the Oasis of the Seas crew forced the ship to stop for hours. The ship was allowed to continue its course after the Coast Guard joined the search Friday morning. Passengers arrived at Port Everglades with about an hour’s delay on Saturday.
After coming off the ship, Jadyn Bushnell, 13, said the moments before the man fell into the waters below seemed unreal. The commotion near her cabin caught her attention.
“I walked outside for about maybe 45 seconds and I just saw him hanging and people screaming, so I walked back inside and I started texting my parents,” she said. “It seemed like a dream.”
The young passenger said she couldn’t see the man’s face, but noticed he was bleeding from his head or neck area. Crew members were trying to help him, but he didn’t seem to “want the help,” she said.
“No one just jumps off a cruise ship,” Jadyn, of Seattle, said. “Because cruise ships are for vacation, they’re for like the most wonderful time that you’re going to have and experience.”
According to the cruise line, the man was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members deliberately going over the side of the ship. It was not immediately clear what led him to act in such manner, but video taken by cruise passenger John Bradley showed the man during the last moments he was seen alive.
Bradley stepped onto the balcony to see what was wrong after hearing a big bang and shouting, he said. He spotted a man straddling a beam over the ship’s edge and darted back inside to call 911.
“By the time I got back out, he was hanging on with his arm,” Bradley said.
In the footage, a passenger outside of the camera’s view is heard desperately urging the man to hold on and begging rescuers to keep a firm grip. He also appeared to be arguing with someone else.
“Let go of me! Until he’s back on board, I’m not going anywhere,” the unidentified passenger said. “Hold on to him! Don’t let him go!”
The man grew hysterical and wailed: “My husband! Oh my God! Hold on to him!”
A man in a vest, appearing to be a crew member, leaned over the railing attempting to hold on to the man’s left shoulder. During the video clip — lasting about a minute and a half — the dangling man did not appear to speak or react with any sense of urgency.
He was positioned against one of the beams holding the lifeboat in place, his legs hanging in the air, before dropping into the ocean.
“It’s completely surreal, it almost seems like a nightmare,” Bradley said.
Tom White, of Boerne, Texas, said he was sleeping when the incident happened and learning about it “was just a big downer” on their last day at sea.
“Everyone was really concerned that it happened,” he said. “We really feel sorry for the family because they have that to contend with forever.”
Several passengers disembarking from the ship said that they did not receive notice of the incident, but instead heard about it as news spread through the ship. Keisha Alston, of Buffalo, N.Y., said she found it unsettling that the cruiseline did not directly inform passengers about the incident. Instead, there were stories and speculation and a lot of unanswered questions, she said.
“I literally prayed for that man’s soul,” Alston said. “I don’t know how you go on vacation, and you don’t come back.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the incident.
email@example.com or 954-356-4543 or Twitter @epesantes