MIAMI (AP) — A man who jumped onto a lifeboat on the side of a cruise ship clung to the edge of the tiny vessel for more than a minute early Friday as fellow passengers watched and screamed before he plunged into the ocean below, according to officials and video posted of the incident.
It wasn’t clear why the man jumped toward the lifeboat or how he came to cling at its side. Royal Caribbean and the Coast Guard said only that the 35-year-old man, from Brazil, was on the seventh deck of the massive Oasis of the Seas when he apparently jumped onto the life boat one deck below. The cruise line didn’t release his name. It said in a statement that it’s supporting the man’s family, but calls and emails for further comment weren’t immediately returned.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it received a report of the incident about 1 a.m. and was searching for the man. The fall came as the ship sailed near the Bahamas.
The short video clip was briefly posted to YouTube but then taken down. It shows several people looking on, apparently trying to help as the man clings to the boat. One man screams, “Hold on to him, don’t let him go” and says he won’t go away until the man is back onboard. A woman tells everyone to stop yelling because people are trying to help him.
The clinging passenger appears to look toward the deck in the seconds before he plunges into the water. The woman says she can see him in the water — “He’s there!” — and tells people to get a lifesaving flotation device to toss to him. “Throw it over!” she says. The video then ends.
It was unclear who took the video, but it appears to be shot from a higher deck.
The Oasis of the Seas sails to the Caribbean from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The ship had left Saturday on a seven-day trip. The Coast Guard said it immediately sent a C-130 plane from Clearwater, Florida, to begin searching for the man. An MH-60 helicopter joined the search at daybreak, and the cruise ship sent two search boats to look for the man.
Passenger Carmen Edelson, a travel blogger with Carmen’s Luxury Travel, said she was awakened around 1 a.m. Friday when the ship began to turn around and the loudspeaker announced that a man had gone overboard. A short time later, crews in lifeboats dropped down to the water as lights shined down from above.
“It was a crazy night,” Edelson said.
The ship resumed its course around 8 a.m. as the Coast Guard continued to search, she added.
The area around the man’s room was closed off later, but the ship was otherwise running normally, Edelson said. “Everybody here is trying to have a good time, but in the back of our minds, we’re still thinking about this incident,” Edelson said.
Asked to confirm the passenger’s account, Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.