Tragedy struck on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship Friday when a gay passenger fell overboard.
The incident occurred at sea about 17 miles east of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Newlywed 35-year-old Bernardo Albaz (pictured) was videotaped clinging to a lifeboat after slipping off a balcony on the Oasis of the Sea ship. The video shows Albas hanging on for about a minute before plunging into the water, where it is presumed he drowned.
Intial reports suggested he jumped overboard in a suicide attempt, but his lawyer tells a different story.
Attorney Mike Winkleman said Albaz and his husband, Eric, who were married about a year ago, were repeatedly harassed by Royal Caribbean crew members during their stay on the ship. According to Winklemen, several crew members directed antigay remarks at the couple like “Hi, lipstick.”
According to NBC Miami, Albaz was at one of the ship’s bars on Friday when a crew member made yet another antigay comment. And that’s when Albaz decided he had had enough.
“Bernardo ended up getting in a huge altercation and ended up in his cabin where he was furious,” Winkleman said. “Ultimately, Royal Caribbean security came to the scene.”
Things got heated and, as a result, Winkleman said, “Bernardo [fell] off his balcony onto the life boat area.”
Video of Albas clinging desperately to the edge of the lifeboat was uploaded to YouTube. In it, other passengers and crew could be seen trying to help.
“Because of you, this happened!” Albas could be heard shouting. “Let go of me! Get off of me!”
Then he lost his grip, slipping to his death. His husband could be heard screaming in the background.
“There clearly appears to be a negligent rescue that was undertaken,” Winkleman continued. “In my eyes, more importantly than that is the antigay remarks that were made against these two gentlemen.”
In a statement, Royal Caribbean said it was “deeply saddened” by the event but maintained that Albaz intentionally went over the side of the ship and that no crew members were to blame.
“Our onboard security team responded to the guest’s stateroom after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the guest’s balcony,” the statement read. “Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony.”
“We will continue to provide assistance to the family as well as law enforcement.”
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for Albaz on Saturday after a search by two boats as well as airplane and helicopter crews were unable to locate him after covering more than 930 nautical square miles.
“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones and all that have been affected by this tragedy,” said Captain Todd Coggeshall, the chief of response management for the Coast Guard 7th District.