MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A man who fell to his death while on board a Royal Caribbean cruise intentionally jumped off a balcony, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Meantime, his husband Erik Elbaz says that is not the case and spoke for the first time on Monday evening. He said the victim was upset about taunts that were made about him being gay from the ship staff and that’s what caused him to go over the balcony.
“The incidents that led up to his state of mind to what happened in that room, caused that,” said Elbaz. “I tried to calm things down. The video will show all of this and that’s what I meant. You guys have blood on your hands. The cruise line has blood on their hands.”
Bernardo Garcia Teixeira and Elbaz, who live in New York and have been married for about a year, had booked the cruise on the Oasis of the Seas to celebrate Eric’s 34th birthday.
Originally, Royal Caribbean said that crew members saw Garcia Teixeira, 35, “intentionally going over the side of the ship” on November 6th around 1 a.m. Friday morning while the ship was about 17 miles from the Turks and Caicos.
“Our on board security team responded to the guest’s stateroom after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the guest’s balcony,” according to a second statement from the cruise line. “Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony.”
Broward sheriff’s investigators said when the ship’s security went to the couple’s cabin regarding a domestic disturbance they found evidence of a physical altercation.
On cell phone video recorded by Garcia Teixeira, sheriff’s investigators watch the fateful event unfold.
“In this video you can clearly hear the victim stating he is going to jump off the balcony,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Gina Carter.
Carter said BSO said that video also showed what happened after he said he was going to jump from the 7th floor.
“The video also show the victim running toward the balcony on his own , he is then followed by his partner and security from the ship that are trying to stop him from jumping,” said Carter.
Sheriff’s investigators said Garcia Teixeira jumped down from his seventh floor balcony and struck the metal support for a lifeboat on the fifth floor. He clung to the ship as staff members tried to rescue him. He fell into the water moments later.
A dramatic video that was shot by a guest on their cell phone and posted on social media, shows the final moments of Garcia Teixeira’s life. He’s seen dangling off the support as a crew member attempts to pull him to safety.
Garcia Teixeira then appears to lose his grip and falls to his death in the churning sea elow.
Mike Winkleman, an attorney for the Elbaz family, said he can’t believe that Garcia Teixeira really wanted to take his own life.
“It’s very clear in the video that he’s trying to hang on, this is very clearly someone who is not trying to commit suicide,” said Winkleman.
In a statement Monday, Royal Caribbean stood by their previous statements.
“We are aware that the facts we have provided differ from the attorney’s remarks, but we stand behind the information in our statements.
Our ship’s security officers responded to reports of domestic dispute loud enough to be heard from several staterooms away. The room was in a state of disarray, and both lamps in the room had been broken. Our officers interviewed the guests separately about their dispute, as is standard procedure. The officers were not in the room when the guest chose to jump off his balcony.
Our officers responded professionally and appropriately to the incident in the stateroom. In addition, other security officers and crew risked their own lives in an attempt to rescue the guest from the lifeboat rigging where he had fallen.”
Winkleman said it was Royal Caribbean crew members who instigated the situation that led to Garcia Teixeira’s death.
“Throughout the cruise, there were anti-gay remarks crew members were making against them,” said Winkleman.
On Thursday, after dinner, Elbaz went back to the couple’s cabin while Garcia Teixeira stayed at the bar, according to the attorney. Winkleman said there were more anti-gay remarks aimed at Garcia Teixeira and then a he got into an altercation with some of the staff.
When he returned to his room, Winkleman said Garcia Teixeira was inebriated, angry and swearing at crew members who may have followed him.
“He was so angry he threw a lamp, a chair,” Winkleman said.
Ship security was called after guest complaints.
After a second visit to the room by security staff, “there is another long altercation, with maybe as many as five or six crew members,” Winkleman said.
That’s when the video shows Garcia Teixeira run to the balcony.
After Garcia Teixeira went overboard, the ship stayed in the area and conducted a search for him. Royal Caribbean dispatched two other ships to assist.
The Coast Guard was notified and also assisted in the search which covered more than 900 square nautical miles. The search was called off on Saturday – the same day the The Oasis of the Seas returned to Port Everglades.
Winkleman is looking into possible gay slurs the crew made toward the couple and more importantly, what he says were negligent rescue efforts.
“There have been statements from the BSO as well as Royal Caribbean that are disturbingly inaccurate (and) again characterize this as a domestic dispute, but it was anything but a domestic dispute,” said Winkleman.