A man lost in the sea. His grieving husband. And now, there are disturbing allegations of homophobic taunting and a plot to cover up the anti-gay remarks leading to a horrific tragedy.
Video spread quickly online this weekend of 35-year-old Bernardo Elbaz falling off the side of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Friday. The cruise line immediately issued a statement claiming that Elbaz jumped overboard after crew members responded to a “domestic dispute.”
But at a Saturday press conference covered by NBC Miami, attorney Michael Winkleman said that Royal Carribbean was misrepresenting what actually happened after Elbaz and his husband of one year allegedly experienced anti-gay harassment at the hands of the ship’s staff—leading to the altercation that caused Elbaz to go overboard.
Winkleman said the staff harassed the gay newlyweds, making remarks like “Hi, lipstick.” In the husband’s account to the attorney, Elbaz was angered.
“He ended up in his cabin, where he is furious, and ultimately Royal Caribbean security comes on the scene,” Winkleman said at a press conference. “As a result of an altercation in his cabin, Bernardo ends up somehow falling off his balcony onto the life boat area.”
The attorney insisted that although Elbaz was intoxicated during the incident, “It was not a suicide. Bernardo did not jump.”
The Broward County sheriff’s office would not confirm or deny the attorney’s allegations, but is conducting an investigation.
In a cellphone video shot from the deck above by another passenger, Elbaz’s husband Eric can be heard shouting to the crew: “You murdered him! Hold on to him!”
Later, Eric Elbaz is heard yelling, “You don’t touch me. Because of you this happened, because I stepped out the door. Let go of me. Until he’s on board, I’m not going anywhere. Let go of me.”
In the video, Elbaz can be seen falling off the ship. Passengers are heard yelling for the crew to throw a lifeboat over, but the video ends before anyone is seen attempting further rescue.
Meanwhile, Royal Carribbean reiterated its earlier claim that Elbaz jumped overboard.
“Our onboard security team responded to the guest’s stateroom after a neighboring guest complained about a domestic dispute on the guest’s balcony,” the statement read, according to NBC Miami. “Our staff did not have a physical altercation with the guest and were unable to prevent his jumping from the stateroom balcony.”
The Coast Guard suspended its search for Elbaz on Saturday after finding (but being unable to recover) a body that matched the description. Winkleman told reporters that the family wants the body recovered.
H/T NBC Miami
Photo via Royalcaribbean.com