Cruise passenger goes overboard in the Florida Keys

MARATHON, Fla. - Search crews are looking for a man who either voluntarily jumped or fell from a cruise ship overnight near the Florida Keys, according to U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss.

According to a spokesperson with Royal Caribbean, the 43-year-old man was spotted on cameras "climbing over the railing and going overboard from deck 12."

The incident happened aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas about 20 miles off Marathon.

A Coast Guard cutter out of Miami, a boat crew based in Marathon, two Canadian Coast Guard ships and a helicopter are assisting with the search.

U.S. Coast Guard crews continued searching for the man Monday afternoon.

Officials say they've covered 423 square miles so far and have used nearly a dozen search patterns trying to find the missing man.

Shawn Weinstock of West Palm Beach was on board the ship when the incident happened.

"It was a cruise from Hell," he says.

From the beginning of the trip, Shawn says there were problems.

The boat left Port Everglades eight hours late because maintenance crews were patching a hole on the side of the ship, he says.

Then, just before 10 p.m. Sunday night, he says a man jumped overboard.

"There was no ship alarm. There were no emergency sounds. There was nothing to alert you that an emergency was going on," Shawn says in a video he recorded right after the incident happened.

He continues, "We were sitting at the roulette table. All of a sudden the ship did a hard port and a hard starboard. All the chips fell. We were like 'What's going on?'"

Lhisa Almashy of Lake Worth was also on board the cruise.

"It was a rough night," she says.

She and her 14-year-old daughter were taking a trip for Spring Break.

"You never think something like that's going to happen while you're on vacation, that's for sure," she says.

When news spread that a man had jumped off the boat, Lhisa panicked.

She said her daughter, Maia, was on the same level of the person who jumped off the ship.

"I knew she was gonna be on deck 12," she says.

Lhisa quickly reunited with her daughter. The two, and everyone else on board the ship, were then sent to their rooms to be quarantined.

Passengers say they were stuck in their rooms for at least two hours, and were told to be very quiet while crews searched the water for the missing man.

"It was eerie because it was pitch black, in the middle of the sea, with silence," Lisa says.

Shawn adds, "We did notice, because they had the spotlights on, that there were a lot of sharks."

But authorities have yet to find the man that went overboard, nor have they identified him.

Royal Caribbean International Statement

On Sunday, March 22, 2015, at approximately 9:14 p.m., a guest onboard Liberty of the Seas reported that another guest may have gone overboard.

A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed a 43-year-old male guest from the U.S. climbing over the railing and going overboard from deck 12.  The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS), and the ship, along with the Coast Guard, conducted a search for the missing guest.  

Early Monday morning, the ship was advised by the Coast Guard that they would be assuming control of the search and the ship resumed its journey to Port Everglades, Florida.

Royal Caribbean’s Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Liberty of the Seas sailed a four-night itinerary that departed Port Everglades, on March 19, made a port call to Cozumel, Mexico, on March 21, and returned to Port Everglades on March 23.

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