The US Coastguard has suspended the search for a 35-year-old Brazilian man who fell from a Royal Caribbean vessel on Friday amid a growing media furore.
Bernardo Elbaz fell from Oasis of the Seas on Friday, 17 miles east of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Royal Caribbean originally issued a statement saying Elbaz was seen “intentionally going over the side of the ship” by crew members aboard the vessel. However, the man’s lawyer Michael Winkleman has since claimed that it was “not a suicide”.
In comments made to NBC, Winkleman said that Elbaz and his husband Eric had been repeatedly subjected to “anti-gay” comments from crew members. One such incident in the Solarium had escalated into a “huge altercation”, he said, which then moved to the couple’s cabin.
“As a result of an altercation in his cabin, Bernardo ends up somehow falling off his balcony onto the life boat area,” Winkleman said.
A video posted on YouTube appeared to show passengers on the ship calling out to a man holding on to a lifeboat support bracket, before he lost his grip and fell. The video has since been removed.
However, Royal Caribbean responded to the accusations with a further statement: “Our ship’s security officers responded to reports of domestic dispute loud enough to be heard from several staterooms away. The room was in a state of disarray, and both lamps in the room had been broken. Our officers interviewed the guests separately about their dispute, as is standard procedure. The officers were not in the room when the guest chose to jump off his balcony.”
The cruise line stressed that security officers and members of the ships crew had, in fact, acted “professionally and appropriately” and had risked their own lives in their efforts to rescue Elbaz from the lifeboat rigging.
“Our Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” it said.