Officials said 35-year-old Ronnie Peale Jr. fell off the Carnival Magic ship on Monday. Security footage on the ship shows Peale “leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water” around 4 a.m., according to a Coast Guard statement.
The Coast Guard said it searched more than 5,171 square miles and 60 hours.
“The decision to suspend the active search efforts pending further development is never one we take lightly. We offer our most sincere condolences to Mr. Peale’s family and friends,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Hooper, Coast Guard District Seven search and rescue mission coordinator.
The cruise was returning to Norfolk, Virginia from the Bahamas when Peale fell overboard. He had been on the trip with his partner and her family.
Monday morning, when Peale’s mother hadn’t heard from him, she felt something had gone wrong.
“I had a really bad gut feeling in my heart,” Linda Peale told Nexstar’s WAVY, her voice breaking. “You can’t put it in words, but a mama knows.”
Peale’s partner, Jennilyn Blosser awoke and realized she didn’t know his whereabouts. She and her family searched the ship, as did the crew, to no avail.
Carnival Cruise Line reported Peale fell into the Atlantic Ocean about 186 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida around 4:10 a.m. Monday morning.
Blosser said Peale’s falling overboard was an accident. A review of the ship’s security footage “confirms that he leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water,” the cruise line said.
“He had been drinking all night, so I don’t know if he was leaning over to puke, or what happened,” Blosser said, “but they said it was not like he was jumping. It was not like that at all.”
After an initial search, it said the ship was released from search and rescue efforts and instructed the captain to make its way back to port in Norfolk.
No additional details were available Wednesday.