Hours after a passenger plunged into the ocean, Royal Caribbean released a statement alleging 35-year-old Bernardo Elbaz jumped off the Oasis of the Sea cruise ship intentionally. According to his family's lawyer, however, this is not the case.
"It was not a suicide," said Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Elbaz family. "Bernardo did not jump."
Winkleman said anti-gay comments from crewmembers led to the horrifying moment, captured on cellphone video, when the Brazilian Elbaz dangled off the edge of the ship.
According to Winkleman, staff aboard the ship made repeatedly made "anti-gay remarks" against Elbaz and his husband, including calling them "Hi, lipstick." Elbaz and his husband Erik were legally married a year ago in New York state.
Winkleman said Elbaz was at one of the ship's bars when another anti-gay comment was direct at him, leading to a "huge altercation."
"He ended up in his cabin, where he is furious, and ultimately Royal Caribbean security comes on the scene," Winkleman recalled. "As a result of an altercation in his cabin, Bernardo ends up somehow falling off his balcony onto the life boat area."
Winkleman said at this point, you can hear in video captured by a fellow passenger Elbaz's husband Erik screamed at the security guards while Elbaz hung on for his life.
Winkleman also told reporters that the family wants Elbaz found.
He said the Coast Guard "did find a body matching the description of Bernardo that was spotted by an airplane, but they were not able to recover the body."
Royal Caribbean issued a statement denying the allegation that crewmembers were involved in a physical alteration with Elbaz.
"Our onboard security team responded to the guest's stateroom after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the guest's balcony," the statement read. "Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony."
"Royal Caribbean is deeply saddened by this event. We will continue to provide assistance to the family as well as law enforcement," the company added.
The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident.