Video shows moment when Carnival cruise ship rescues Norwegian crew member who went overboard
Two weeks before he plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, the Norwegian Cruise Line crew member who later survived the ordeal had eerily shared a Facebook post about another man who had fallen overboard — and also survived.
In the post, the man talks about falling from a ship and treading water for hours as he watched the vessel sail away. He describes when, in a moment where he thought he might drown, he felt God encouraging him to stay afloat and when, later, he was threatened by a large shark. The man was eventually saved by the Coast Guard.
When he shared the post, Norwegian crew member Francis Rakochi Santiago didn't add a comment. It's still unclear what happened to the 33-year-old man when he fell into the ocean, treading water for at least 22 hours before a Carnival Cruise Line vessel found him alive. But posts on his Facebook indicate he may have been troubled. Several crew members have speculated that Santiago jumped, but Norwegian has declined to comment on circumstances surrounding the incident.
A crew member Facebook group, comments on several forums, a crew website and a friend have identified Santiago, a Filipino worker who cleans the public areas on the Norwegian Getaway and who goes by the nickname "Kiko," as the man who was rescued Sunday by the Carnival Glory. His cover photo on Facebook is an image of the Norwegian Getaway and MSC Armonia at port.
Friend Chin Nie told the Miami Herald that Santiago is "safe and recovering."
On Sunday, Nie posted on Santiago's Facebook page saying, "Hey! Boy! What is this? Get up... it's not a good joke! I told you to stay positive... why like this?"
On a Facebook post Saturday, the day he went overboard, Santiago shared an image with the words, "Don't be so quick to believe what you hear, because lies spread quicker than the truth." A commenter on the post, who also works for Norwegian, asked, "Wherever you are, please come back now. People in the ship are worried about you!"
In another post last week, Santiago shared a post with the words, "I am a strong person. But once in a while, I need someone to hug me and tell me, 'Everything is going to be okay.' "
Santiago was found at about 1 p.m. Sunday, 21 miles north of Cuba and in stable condition. He was disembarked by the Glory in Cozumel Monday, said Carnival spokeswoman AnneMarie Matthews.
Passengers on the Glory were alerted to the situation in the afternoon Sunday, when an alarm and calls of, " Man overboard, man overboard, port side," sounded through the the intercom system, said Kristine Shipman, a passenger who was on the ship with her 13-year-old son.
Shipman was sitting down at the lunch buffet when she glanced out the window and saw Santiago clinging to a bright orange life vest that had been thrown at him. As crews worked to pull the man aboard, cheers and applause erupted at the buffet.
Shipman said "it looked like the individual was alert and able to function."
According to Norwegian, the man went overboard early in the morning on Saturday. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified at about 3:20 p.m. and it, along with the Norwegian Getaway, which was 28 miles northwest of Pinar Del Rio in Cuba at the time, began a search and rescue operation.
Several commenters on Cruise Critic, a popular forum for cruisers, said the ship called for the missing crew member in the morning and then announced it was beginning the search around 3 p.m. A Cruise Critic commenter with username "schwabob," who was aboard the ship, said crew members said the missing worker hadn't reported to work that morning. One crew member said Santiago hadn't "been doing well" before going overboard, the commenter said.
Dave Miller, a passenger aboard the Norwegian Getaway, said in an interview that the ship was on the final leg of the journey, heading from Cozumel to Miami, when the captain turned back and started to search for the lost crew member.
"It was very surreal," Miller said. "Some of the crew members were like, 'I don't give him six to eight hours out there' and then others were very hopeful. Our butler on the ship actually knew him and was hoping that he would come out OK."
It's rare for people who go overboard from a cruise ship to be found alive. According to Ross Klein, a professor at the School of Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, who tracks man overboards on cruise ships, 314 people have gone overboard since 1995.
Of those, only 57 have been rescued, or 18 percent.
Debbie Pujol Mortham, a passenger on the Carnival Glory, said watching the rescue was an "emotional" experience.
"All music and events stopped. Everyone aboard took to the rails to watch and assist in the search and rescue," she wrote on Facebook.
From her binoculars, she watched as the lifeboat approached Santiago, while shouts of "yay!" broke out behind her.
"Grateful that God placed our ship in the right place," she wrote. "Compassion. Hope. Please pray for this man and his family."