The husband of a man who died after falling overboard on a Royal Caribbean cruise is suing the line, claiming the company failed to make a timely attempt to save him or to recover the body after he fell.
In Nov. 2015, Bernardo Garcia Teixeira was presumed dead after he fell into the water during a Caribbean cruise. Garcia Teixeira and his husband Erik Elbaz were reportedly involved in a domestic dispute before incident. Cruise line authorities and police maintained at the time that Garcia Teixeira intentionally jumped off the stateroom balcony.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in Miami Federal Court by Elbaz, alleges that he and Teixeira were subjected to “repeated homophobic taunts and slurs” and other offensive behaviors from crewmembers even before the Nov. 6 tragedy, reports Courthouse News Service.
The taunting escalated, says Elbaz, and on Nov. 5, one Royal Caribbean employee reportedly called his husband a “pedophile.” According to the suit, the two men returned to their room and began talking loudly about being mistreated.
Crewmembers and security officers were called to the couple’s room and, the suit says, threatened to arrest Garcia. At the time of the incident, crewmembers reported that furnishings in the room had been damaged before authorities arrived.
The men began arguing with the officers and, the suit says, at some point Garcia Teixeira fell off the stateroom balcony, landing on a life boat below. He was able to hang on for a few minutes before falling into the ocean.
"Several RCCL security officers and/or crewmembers grabbed Mr. Garcia by his arms and had a hold of him for several minutes, but ultimately failed to secure and rescue him from falling overboard," the complaint says.
Elbaz says he begged the ship’s officials to stop the ship and order a search and rescue mission immediately but claims he was dismissed and told to “calm down.”
The U.S. Coast Guard did perform a search-and-rescue operation after being notified by Royal Caribbean, but Garcia's body was never found. Elbaz says Royal Caribbean “failed to deploy life boats within a reasonable time.”
In 2015, the Cruise Lines International Association, told Yahoo News that about 20 people—out of 22 million passengers-- fall off cruise ships annually.
Elbaz is seeking compensatory damages on claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the High Seas Act.
Royal Caribbean was not immediately available for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.