A man who went overboard on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship had been involved in a domestic disturbance with his partner and had declared that he was planning to jump, Broward Sheriff's officials said Monday.
Bernardo Garcia Teixeira was aboard the Oasis of the Seas about 17 miles from the Turks and Caicos islands when he jumped from the ship just before 4 a.m. Friday, the South Florida officials said.
According to the BSO, ship security responded to a domestic disturbance in the cabin of Teixeira and his partner, Erik Elbaz, where they found evidence of a physical altercation.
Detectives reviewed video evidence that showed the couple's interactions with ship security in which Teixeira can be heard declaring he was planning to jump overboard, officials said.
The recording shows the 31-year-old Teixeira running toward the balcony alone, with Elbaz running after him followed by security, BSO officials said. The BSO said they will not be releasing the video.
Teixeira jumped from the seventh floor balcony and struck a metal support for a lifeboat on the fifth floor. He clung to the ship as staff members tried to rescue him, but then fell in the water moments later.
Teixeira's body has not been recovered.
Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Elbaz family, refuted the BSO's claims at a news conference Monday, along with Elbaz. Both men denied that Teixeira jumped from the ship, and claimed anti-gay comments from crewmembers led to an altercation.
"He did not jump, he did not jump, I was outside trying to calm security down," Elbaz said. "Bernardo was holding on for his life, he was reaching out for assistance."
According to Winkleman, staff aboard the ship repeatedly made "anti-gay remarks" against Elbaz and his husband, including calling them "Hi, lipstick." Elbaz and Teixeira were legally married a year ago in New York state.
"This was, as we've said before, this was a direct result of anti-gay bullying, and anti-gay harassment against Erik and Bernard," Winkleman said at Monday's news conference. "The BSO said that he jumped when in fact it is clear that he made a direct statement on the video which I have seen that says he was doing this because of Royal Caribbean's conduct."
Elbaz said Teixeira had returned to their cabin drunk and upset after anti-gay remarks were made at one of the ship's bars.
"I said 'sweetheart, what happened?' he said they said things that were abusive. I said, 'who?' He said the crew," Elbaz said.
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.
"Bernardo was a pure, pure soul, quiet, sensitive. He always thought about how his words affected everybody else," Elbaz said. "He did not need to die, he was alive and it was unfortunate missteps on the cruise line."