FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The husband of a man who fell off a Royal Caribbean cruise ship near the Bahamas claims cruise line employees taunted them for being gay, causing the 35-year-old to fall overboard.
Royal Caribbean said a passenger, later identified as Bernardo Albaz, jumped from the seventh deck of the Oasis of the Seas onto a life raft below and then fell into the water early Friday morning about 80 miles off the coast of the Bahamas.
However, an attorney for Albaz's husband said at a news conference Saturday that Royal Caribbean is lying about what happened.
"Royal Caribbean is saying this was a domestic dispute and a suicide," attorney Michael Winkleman said. "It was anything but that."
Winkleman said Royal Caribbean security guards got into an altercation with Albaz in his cabin in the moments before he fell off the balcony.
Cellphone video taken by another passenger from an upper deck shows Albaz clinging to a ledge near the life raft before falling into the water.
"People are yelling, 'Hold on. Hold on,' and I could just see this guy holding on," witness Jadyn Bushnell told Local 10 News after the ship returned to Port Everglades on Saturday morning. "He was bleeding from his head area."
Winkleman said Albaz was taunted by Royal Caribbean crew members at a bar on the ship late Thursday night. He said they were teasing Albaz because he was gay.
After an altercation at the bar, Albaz returned to his room, but ship employees soon followed, Winkleman said.
"I can see how from the media perspective Royal Caribbean would rather (take a position that) this is the scenario where someone jumped overboard rather than something directly implicating their security staff," Winkleman said.
Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in a statement that the security staff was called to Albaz's room after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the balcony.
"Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony," Martinez said.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for Albaz on Saturday.
A missing persons investigation by the Broward Sheriff's Office is ongoing.
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