The United States Coast Guard ended its massive search for the guest who went overboard from the Carnival Magic as the cruise ship was sailing back from the Bahamas to its home port in Norfolk, Virginia last weekend. A press release by the Coast Guard indicated that the agency spent two and one-half days (60 hours!) requiring a massive amount of assets to conduct the delayed search, involving a cutter and three search aircraft from separate Coast Guard air stations, including:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WMEC 907);
  • HC-130 Hercules from Clearwater;
  • HC-130 Hercules Elizabeth City; and
  • HC-144 Ocean Sentry from Miami.

Carnival Corporation has not installed automatic man overboard (MOB) technology on any of the ninety-five or so cruise ships it owns and operates under its nine cruise brands. This technology incorporates motion detection, radar and infrared systems to send an alarm instantly to the bridge notifying navigational officers that a person has gone over the rails and into the water. The system then tracks the person in the water even at night.

This system, which we have highlighted for the past decade, eliminates any delay in the search for the overboard guest or crew member and greatly improves the chance of locating and rescuing the overboard person.

Carnival’s refusal to install a MOB system on the Carnival Magic caused the search grid to widen exponentially to  5,171 square miles, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Carnival’s PR statement (which you can read here) released early yesterday claims that the missing guest “leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water at approximately 4:10 am early Monday morning,” according to the unmonitored surveillance cameras which Carnival eventually reviewed. The guest’s wife reportedly notified Carnival that her husband was missing “late Monday afternoon,” according to a statement released by the company’s corporate communications department. Comments attributable to the wife posted online indicates that she reported him missing at some time after 3:00 p.m.

In a press release late yesterday, the Coast Guard disclosed that Carnival did not notify the agency of the overboard passenger until 6:36 p.m. – a delay og 14 hours and 26 minutes after he went into the water! The Coast Guard stated:

“Carnival Cruise Lines personnel contacted Coast Guard watchstanders at 6:36 p.m., Monday, reporting that a passenger fell off the cruise ship Carnival Magic and entered the water.”

This case perfectly demonstrates the problems caused when cruise lines refuse to install the available MOB technology which certain Congressional leaders articulated in a letter to the Coast Guard earlier last month:

“Time is a critical factor in overboard incidents: the delay between an incident’s occurrence and the person’s friend or family reporting them missing can dangerously expand the search grid and decrease the likelihood of a successful rescue.”

After the passenger was reported overboard shortly after 3:00 p.m., there was a delay of over three additional hours before Carnival notified the Coast Guard.

Not only is the chances of locating the missing man substantially reduced, but the Coast Guard unnecessarily expended vast governmental resources which it is not responsible for reimbursing. Read: Your Tax Dollars At Sea – Who Pays When Things Go Wrong on Cruises?

The overboard passenger has been identified as 35 year old Ronnie Lee Peale Jr., as we mentioned in our first article about this latest cruise overboard. As we previously mentioned, Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein indicates that 381 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last twenty-five years.

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Image credit: United States Coast Guard, PureTech Man Overboard System