A frantic search is underway for a man who fell overboard from a luxury cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Australian passenger has not been seen since falling into the ocean on Tuesday evening, with an initial two-hour search, as well as a six-hour expedition by the US Coast Guard both failing to locate him. Passengers aboard the cruiser have described the “very sombre” atmosphere felt on the ship the morning after the man went missing.
The US Coast Guard is preparing to resume the search at first light on Thursday morning local time, according to a spokesperson.
The behemoth challenge will entail tracking drift patterns in the ocean using locator beacons; with each minute the man remains missing, the search area increases.
The coast guard has issued an urgent call to any ships in the area that might be able to help.
It follows two previous searches, first carried out by the cruiser crew, then by the US Coast Guard, who travelled two hours to reach the ship.
After the Australian was declared overboard, the ship’s crew searched for him for about two hours, deploying six life rings.
US Coast Guard teams, including aircrew, then carried out a six-hour search operation that began at 9am Wednesday morning.
They received the report of the man overboard from Royal Caribbean at 1am Hawaii time and launched a Hercules aircraft at 7am Wednesday, arriving at the scene two hours later.
After six hours of searching, the crew flew to Honolulu to take on fuel, with the coastguard saying they would resume their search on Thursday morning.
The luxury cruise ship, which hosts a range of activities and entertainment, was at sea for 15 days and was due to dock in Honolulu on Friday.
The ship left Brisbane on 12 April and was about 560 miles south of Hawaii at the time of the incident.
A spokesperson for the 14th district coast guard based in Honolulu, Ryan Fisher, said the Hercules was the only asset on the scene conducting a search. The plane completed five search patterns but was unable to find the man.
Passengers Georgina Thompson and her husband described the moment they heard the crew shouting “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” on Tuesday evening, which is the emergency code for a person overboard.
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She told Nine’s Today Show she and her husband then went out on their deck to see the lights and lifeboats deployed, but at the time didn’t know what was happening.
“The light started searching along the outside of the ship, shining along the outside right down the bottom,” she said.
“We were watching it. It lit up the whole ocean. Well, most of the ocean. But it was very dark. You just knew that something was wrong.”
Thompson said her husband thought the ship had stopped because it hit something, “but then we realised that there was someone overboard.” She described the mood at breakfast the next morning as “very sombre”.
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