Tourism & Cruises

Lawyer: Altercation led to passenger’s fall from cruise ship

A man clings to a lifeboat after falling off the the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.
A man clings to a lifeboat after falling off the the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

The family of a man who fell to his death from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is now planning to sue.

Royal Caribbean said the man, Bernardo Elbaz, was spotted by crew members jumping from the ship’s deck Friday.

But the Elbaz’s family’s lawyer is telling a very different story from the cruise line.

Mike Winkleman, attorney for the family, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that Elbaz fell over the balcony and the cruise line didn’t do enough to rescue him.

“Royal Caribbean is saying this was a domestic dispute and he jumped overboard so it was a suicide,” Winkleman said.

Winkleman disputes this claim, and said that crew members made anti-gay remarks to Elbaz and his husband, which led to an altercation where Elbaz fell to his death.

“This was a married gay couple that were on Royal Caribbean cruise and throughout the cruise there were anti-gay remarks crew members were making against them,” Winkleman said.

The comments against Elbaz and his husband, Eric, escalated into a huge dispute Thursday night while the couple was at a bar, with ship security intervening, Winkleman said.

“A big altercation ensued,” Winkleman said. “That ultimately led to Bernardo falling over the balcony of his stateroom and ending up on the lifeboats.”

The fall was caught on cell phone video by a passenger.

Video shows man falling overboard from Oasis of the Seas cruise ship on Nov. 6, 2015.

In the video, you see Elbaz dangling from a lifeboat rafter on the side of the Oasis of the Seas while people scream and reach out to him. He then drops into the ocean.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard suspended its search for Elbaz after aircrews searched an area covering 931 square nautical miles.

Royal Caribbean said early on that crew members spotted the man intentionally jumping.

As passengers disembarked from the ship, they told CBS4 what they heard about the incident.

“There were a lot of speculation that it was domestic dispute,” said one passenger.

“That someone had jumped off because of a domestic dispute,” said another.

“We heard there was a domestic problem,” added a third passenger.

“There was no jump, there was no domestic dispute,” said Winkleman.

Winkleman awaits evidence that could help him prove it.

He’s also looking into possible gay slurs the crew made toward the couple and more importantly, what he says were negligent rescue efforts.

“If Royal Caribbean was on the scene when this was happening, why didn’t they rescue him, why wasn’t more done, why wasn’t a life ring given to him,” Winkleman said.

The FBI has asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office to investigate.