Officials said Ronnie Peale Jr., 35, fell off the Carnival Magic ship on Monday. Security footage on the ship shows that Peale “leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water” at about 4 a.m., according to a Coast Guard statement.
The Coast Guard said it searched more than 5,171 square miles and 60 hours.
“The decision to suspend the active search efforts pending further development is never one we take lightly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Hooper, Coast Guard District Seven search and rescue mission coordinator. “We offer our most sincere condolences to Mr. Peale’s family and friends.”
The cruise was returning to Norfolk, Virginia from the Bahamas when Peale fell overboard. He had been on the trip with his partner and her family.
When Peale’s mother hadn’t heard from him Monday morning, she sais she felt something had gone wrong.
“I had a really bad gut feeling in my heart,” Linda Peale told Nexstar’s WAVY. “You can’t put it in words, but a mama knows.”
Peale’s partner, Jennilyn Blosser, woke up and realized she didn’t know where he was. She and her family searched the ship, as did the crew, to no avail.
Carnival Cruise Line reported that Peale fell into the Atlantic Ocean about 186 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, at about 4:10 a.m. Monday.
Blosser said Peale’s falling overboard was an accident. A review of the ship’s security footage “confirms that he leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water,” the cruise line said.
“He had been drinking all night, so I don’t know if he was leaning over to puke, or what happened,” Blosser said, “But they said it was not like he was jumping. It was not like that at all.”
After an initial search, the ship was released from search-and-rescue efforts and the captain was told to head back to port in Norfolk.