The U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday night ended its search for a woman who went overboard from the Royal Caribbean mega-ship the Allure of the Seas on Sunday night. The passenger, who was only identified as a 21 year old from Tennessee, was seen going overboard by another passenger at 9:25 p.m. Sunday. This was confirmed when video footage from the ship's security cameras was reviewed. The location was approximately 50 miles off Fort Lauderdale, Florida while the vessel was enroute to Nassau in the Bahamas.
A Royal Caribbean news release said that when the witness reported the passenger overboard, the Captain "immediately stopped the ship" and turned it around. Two other cruise ships helped the Allure in an unsuccessful search until a Coast Guard fast response Cutter stationed in Miami arrived on scene at 3:30 a.m. and took charge of the search. On Monday and Tuesday the Coast Guard searched over 2,300 square miles but did not find anything.
One of the more disturbing facts in this tragedy is that the Coast Guard was not notified of the passenger going overboard until 11;30 p.m. on Sunday night about 2 hours after it was reported. A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said the process of making sure a passenger is not onboard takes some time and verification is necessary before notifying the Coast Guard. That may be true in the case of a "missing' passenger, but in this case another passenger saw her go over the side and it was verified by video footage. We will never know whether the two hour delay in notification made any difference in this case, but common sense indicates that in circumstances such as here the Coast Guard should have been notified immediately.
The FBI said it will investigate what caused the 21 year old woman to fall off the cruise ship. Hopefully they will also address the delay in notification.