Search underway for 22-year-old Royal Caribbean passenger who went overboard

KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) - As the U.S. Coast Guard searched for a 22-year-old passenger who went overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, early Thursday morning, it was confirmed by the cruise line that the passenger intentionally jumped off the ship.

According to a statement released late Thursday morning by Royal Caribbean, a guest on board Independence of the Seas was witnessed intentionally going overboard from deck 12, at around 1:45 a.m.

The statement read in part, “Our Care Team is providing support to the family of the guest, a 22-year-old American man. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”

“We’re praying for the family, of course. They’re the ones who are going to be hurt for now and forever,” said passenger Rick Barlow. “We’ll get over it with prayer.”

The ship immediately alerted local authorities and turned the ship around to help search for the guest. The Coast Guard based in Key West received word of the situation at 1:49 a.m., when the ship was about 33 miles southeast of Key Largo.

Two of the ship’s lifeboats and the U.S. Coast Guard performed a search.

Many passengers on board witnessed crew members as they organized the search and coordinated with the Coast Guard. “The captain came on himself and said that they had a tragedy overnight,” said passenger Dominick Esposito. “[The captain said] that one of the passengers threw himself over the 12th deck, and they had to stop and call for the Coast Guard. I guess they worked close to three hours with the Coast Guard, and then, finally, the Coast Guard told them to go back to their business.”

At 6:15 a.m., the Coast Guard assumed control of the search and the Independence of the Seas resumed sailing to Port Everglades, Florida. The ship arrived to the port at around 10 a.m.

“Everyone was pretty down, you know?” said passenger Christian Lesteiro. “Everyone was kind of in shock at breakfast.”

According to Royal Caribbean, the cruise ship departed Fort Lauderdale, Friday, and made stops at ports in Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

Coast Guard rescue crews are searching by air and sea for the man.

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