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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Coast Guard suspends search for Carnival cruise ship passenger who reportedly jumped overboard

The Carnival cruise ship Valor heads up the Mississippi River in New Orleans on April 8, 2020, during the pandemic. (David Grunfeld/ Orleans Advocate/AP)
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An hours-long search for a missing Carnival cruise ship passenger who reportedly jumped overboard has been suspended after rescue crews combed more than 2,500 square nautical miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Coast Guard said.

The 32-year-old woman, who has not been publicly identified, leaped Wednesday afternoon from her balcony on the Carnival Valor cruise ship into the Gulf of Mexico, according to statements from Carnival and Coast Guard officials. Carnival said the ship’s command immediately began search-and-rescue procedures and alerted the Coast Guard, which took over the efforts that evening.

After 14 hours, the Coast Guard said it had halted its search by Thursday evening.

“The decision to suspend a search-and-rescue case is never one we come to lightly,” Chief Warrant Officer Tricia Eldredge, command duty officer at Sector New Orleans, said in a statement late Thursday. “We offer our deepest sympathies to the family during this difficult time.”

Coast Guard calls off search for overboard passenger on Mexico cruise

Cellphone video obtained by Fox-affiliate WVUE appears to show a woman standing on the deck of a ship screaming the name “Alicia” as crew members and security hold her back and then escort her from the area. Matt Lupoli, a spokesman for the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line, told The Washington Post that claims that the woman was placed in handcuffs are false.

Later in the video — presumably after the woman jumped — fellow passengers are seen scrambling to the side of the ship as one person hurls a personal flotation device overboard.

Passengers said the woman jumped from the 10th floor and hit the side of the ship before falling into the water, according to WVUE. But authorities have not confirmed that detail.

From 2001 to 2019, 58 passengers and 14 crew died after falling overboard and 55 passengers and five crew members died after jumping overboard in suspected suicides, according to the International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health. The Coast Guard said the cause of the recent incident is under investigation.

Lupoli said the woman was traveling with her husband on the Carnival Valor ship, which departed Saturday from New Orleans for a five-day cruise to Mexico. It returned Thursday to its home port. Lupoli said Carnival’s CARE team is providing support to the woman’s husband, adding that the crew’s thoughts are with the family.

Amanda Finnegan contributed to this report.