ROME – Colombian maritime authorities searched Sunday for an Italian chef believed to have gone overboard from a U.S. cruise ship off Colombia's Caribbean coast, officials and the man's family said.
There were different accounts about when and where Angelo Faliva, 31, was last seen as the Princess Cruises "Coral Princess" sailed from Aruba to Cartagena, Colombia, between Nov. 25 and 26.
Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson said Faliva was last seen on a deck at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 26, when he spoke with another crew member as the ship neared Cartagena.
His family, however, said they had been told that he had unexpectedly walked out of the ship's galley at about 8:15 p.m. the night before, while he was working the dinner shift, and never returned and hadn't been seen since.
The Faliva family said it was alerted Thursday that he had been reported missing and that a life preserver was also missing, with its nighttime illumination flares torn off and left aboard the ship.
"He surely didn't jump off. It wasn't suicide," his sister Chiara Faliva told The Associated Press from the family's home in Cremona. "We think there was an accident or a homicide."
The "Coral Princess" left Miami on Nov. 23. The ship, currently en route from Panama to Acapulco, Mexico, is due to dock in Los Angeles on Dec. 7, at which point the FBI is expected to join the investigation, she said.
Benson said Faliva's cabin had been sealed, the ship has been searched and its CCTV footage reviewed. No cameras captured video of a crew member going overboard.
"Obviously, we're very concerned," Benson said. "This is highly unusual and clearly we are concerned for his safety. It very well may be that he went overboard, but we don't know that for a fact."
The commander of the Colombian Coast Guard station in Cartagena, Lt. Javier Sanchez, said officials there received a report from the "Coral Princess" at 10 a.m. Thursday that one of the cooks had last been seen the night before between 7-8 p.m. when the ship was navigating Colombian waters near La Guajira.
But like the Princess spokeswoman, he too said the Coast Guard received word from the ship later Thursday that a person had seen the chef at about 6 a.m. Thursday morning.
The ship docked in Cartagena at 10 a.m. Thursday. By 3 p.m., the Coast Guard began searching for the chef, using a helicopter and two boats.
The search continues, using boats. "The case is not closed," Sanchez said.
An Italian Foreign Ministry official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Italian embassy officials in Bogota were working with Colombian maritime authorities conducting the search and that the FBI was expected to investigate as well since the ship is part of the U.S.-based Carnival Corp. cruise empire.
The family is hoping Venezuelan maritime authorities also will take part in the search since the ship passed through Venezuelan waters during the time Faliva is believed to have gone overboard.
Chiara Faliva said her brother had been working for Princess Cruises since 2006 and that this was his third six-month tour with the line. He was a sous chef in the ship's Italian restaurant "Sabatini's."
She said she had received an e-mail from her brother the day before he went missing, and he reported that everything was going well. She said the captain had told the family that her brother had last been seen in the kitchen preparing dinner.
"He left quickly without saying anything to anyone and left the kitchen," she said. "From that point on, they don't know anything."
The "Coral Princess," launched in 2003, can accommodate 1,970 passengers and 900 crew.