Bernardo Elbaz, a 35-year-old Brazilian man who lived in New York, allegedly intentionally jumped off the the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas while northeast of Mayaguana, Bahamas. Information shared by passengers suggests the apparent suicide attempt was prompted by a domestic dispute. However, this has since been denied by his family’s lawyer, reports The Sun Sentinel.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Went Overboard on November 6
According to The Sun Sentinel, the incident unfolded around 1 a.m. Friday [November 6], when Elbaz, “who had been on the seventh deck of the vessel, apparently jumped into a lifeboat one deck below.” Passengers recorded the drama with cell phones, and one video was posted to YouTube. You can watch that footage above. Viewer discretion is advised, as the video contains disturbing imagery and tense dialogue.
A man is heard shouting, “You don’t touch me. Because of you this happened, because I stepped out the door. Let go of me.” Moments later, he continues, “I’m not going anywhere. Let go of me. … Get off of me. Get off of me. … I’m not going anywhere.” Then suddenly Elbaz loses grip and falls into the ocean as witnesses cry out in dismay.
2. Royal Caribbean & The Coast Guard Released Statements
Royal Caribbean released a statement regarding the incident:
On Friday November 6, while Oasis of the Seas was at sea, 17 miles east of Turks and Caicos Islands, a 35 year old male guest from Brazil went overboard. He was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship. A Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched and is currently assisting us with the search. Our Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
The Coast Guard issued a press release about the search for the victim:
COAST GUARD SEARCHING FOR PERSON IN THE WATER 80 NAUTICAL MILES NORTHEAST OF MAYAGUANA, BAHAMAS
MIAMI — Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews are searching for a man in the water 80 nautical miles northeast of Mayaguana, Bahamas, Friday.
At approximately 1 a.m., the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship reported a missing 35-year-old male after he fell into the water during a cruise. The cruise ship launched two small boats to begin searching for the male who was last seen wearing a pink shirt and white shorts.
Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 and MH-60 aircrews are currently searching for the man.
3. Passengers Provided Real Time Social Media Coverage of the Tragedy
Passengers on the ship provided real-time, social media coverage of the event:
My parents are actually on this cruise. They texted me this morning saying the ship is at a dead stop pending rescue and investigation by the Coast Guard. Rumors around the ship are that family fighting and alcohol were involved. He jumped from the 7th deck of the boat around 1am, falling on the lifeboat below. As seen in the video, he was hanging from the lifeboat, alive but injured (blood on the lifeboat) before falling overboard. Pretty traumatic situation.
Update: Boat is moving and on the way back to FL. After 7 hours, Royal Caribbean is handing over search and rescue to the Coast Guard. USCG is continuing search with one plane and one helicopter. The captain said he had advanced warning of a “domestic situation” on board and had already slowed down the ship before the incident. Not looking good. Also, that is not my mom yelling/filming.
4. His Lawyer Alleges Elbaz Was a Victim of Homophobia
Elbaz is gay and was on the cruise with his spouse, Eric. In a statement to The Sun Sentinel, the family attorney, Michael Winkleman, stated that Elbaz was the victim of homophobic slurs by staff. They write:
Based on interviews with Eric Elbaz, Winkleman said the couple had been subjected to gay slurs from crew members earlier in the cruise. “At the bar there were comments like, ‘Hey, Lipstick,'” said Winkleman. “Bernardo was sensitive about those issues.”
On Thursday, following a late dinner, Eric Elbaz went to the couple’s cabin while Bernardo stayed at the bar. “There was some altercation, a fight, more anti-gay remarks,” said Winkleman.
Winkleman further alleges that five or six crew members followed Bernardo back to his stateroom where he got into an altercation with them while Eric was present. The door to the balcony was open, and that’s when Bernardo fell overboard.
5. Royal Caribbean Denies Lawyer’s Accusations
Royal Caribbean responded to the family’s allegations with an updated statement:
Our onboard security team responded to the guest’s stateroom after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the guest’s balcony.
“Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony.