The search for a man that went overboard on a cruise ship from Louisiana bound for Jamaica has been suspended, the U.S. Coast Guard announced on Thursday.
28-year-old Tyler Barnett was on a family vacation on the Carnival Glory cruise ship when he was reported missing just after midnight on Monday, the USCG said. The search for the missing passenger began shortly after noon that day, following the ship’s path from Southwest Pass, Louisiana.
On Tuesday evening, the cruise’s security team found surveillance video of Barnett at 1:40 a.m., climbing onto a lifeboat and “jumping” from there, a Carnival Cruise spokesperson said on Tuesday.
But members of Barnett’s family think that he slipped by accident.
“From what my granddaughter could tell from the poor quality of the footage, it looked like he went to move and slipped off. I know Tyler wouldn’t deliberately jump,” Barnett’s grandmother, Dirlean Tate Mason, told NBC News on Thursday. She said her granddaughter, Destiny Barnett, reviewed the footage of Barnett on the ship.
Barnett works on the river barges at his home in Houma, Louisiana, Mason said. She said he has 3-year-old twin daughters waiting for him at home with Barnett’s father and stepmother.
Coast Guard crews searched over 5,600 square miles, an area larger than the size of Connecticut using three different air crews, according to a Thursday press release. They also broadcast the man overboard alert to mariners across the Gulf of Mexico.
“Our crews battled severe weather conditions for multiple days and made every effort to find Mr. Barnett,” said Lt. Cmdr. Sean DiGeorge, Coast Guard District Eight search and rescue mission coordinator, said in the press release.
“Suspending an active search is never a decision we make lightly, and we offer our most sincere condolences to Mr. Barnett’s family and friends,” DiGeorge said.
Barnett was on the cruise with 13 of his family members when he went overboard. His sister, Destiny Barnett, said on Tuesday that she felt trapped on the cruise, unable to enjoy the vacation, but also unable to leave without knowing what happened to her brother.
Mason said Destiny Barnett has since left the ship, which docked in Montego Bay in Jamaica on Wednesday. It took her multiple tries to get the cruise line to show her the surveillance footage, she told NBC News on Tuesday.
Mason said she can’t understand why it took the cruise line as long as it did to locate the correct surveillance footage and notify the Coast Guard. It took more than 24-hours to locate the footage of Barnett jumping overboard. Previously, the cruise line only found surveillance video of Barnett entering the cruise’s casino and his room on Sunday night.
A spokesperson for the cruise line said the delay occurred because the crew was only advised that Barnett could be wearing a different shirt on Tuesday. The security team was able to change the search profile of onboard video afterwards.
“Our thoughts are with the family as they grieve during this very difficult time,” said Matt Lupoli, a spokesperson for the cruise line. “We are not going to get into a back and forth with certain family members through the media out of respect for them, but we stand by our statement.”
A spokesperson for the Coast Guard, Petty Officer Second Class Jose Hernandez, said that footage revealed on Tuesday of Barnett going overboard meant they had to redirect search efforts to a different area approximately 30 miles southwest of the Southwest Pass.
When Barnett went overboard, the winds were at 35 mph or higher, with 8 to 12 foot waves, said Hernandez.
Mason said she isn’t ready to make memorial arrangements for Barnett because she does not want to believe the search is over.
“I guess I’m still hoping for a miracle,” said Mason. “Maybe there was something out there for Tyler to hold onto — some debris floating. You think all kinds of thoughts when you’re not ready to give up.”