NORFOLK, Va. — A 35-year-old man is missing after he apparently fell overboard while en route back to Norfolk on board the Carnival Magic. The cruise ship departed from Norfolk on May 25 and returned to port Tuesday morning.
According to a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines, the man "was reported missing by his companion late Monday afternoon and an initial review of closed circuit security footage confirms that he leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water at approximately 4:10 am early Monday morning."
The spokesperson said the U.S. Coast Guard had released the ship from participating in search and rescue efforts and told the Carnival Magic's captain that they should complete the ship's return trip to Norfolk.
The spokesperson said: "The Carnival Care Team is providing support to the guest’s companion and traveling party who are on board."
The Carnival Magic arrived back as planned in Norfolk Tuesday morning.
The Southeast Coast Guard said that the man went overboard about 186 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida. The Coast Guard is still searching for him using air and water assets.
His partner, Jennilyn Blosser, told 13News Now his name is Ronnie Peale Jr. and described him as the life of the party.
Blosser, who didn't want to speak over the phone or on camera, said she woke up late Monday to find Peale no longer in their room.
She told 13News Now she didn't think much of it at first, since Peale typically wakes up earlier than she does.
However, she said once she got them lunch and still couldn't find him anywhere on the cruise ship, she asked her family on board to help. When they still struggled to find him, Blosser said reality started settling in and they quickly alerted crews on the ship.
“I think it was about 3 o’clock-ish, they started paging the gentleman,” said Dawn Schrieber, a passenger on Carnival Magic.
“We didn’t know how serious it was until his wife got on the Facebook page that said he has been missing since 3:30 yesterday morning,” said Shannon Wallace, another cruise passenger.
Wallace said someone started a Facebook group before the cruise to meet others. During their last night on the ship, they used that group to try and find Peale.
“They were posting on that Facebook page like 'Hey Ronnie, if you’re OK go to the front desk,'” Wallace said.
A Carnival Cruise spokesperson said surveillance footage ultimately showed Peale leaning over the railing of his balcony and falling into the water.
“I’m really hoping that they find him or he’s able to hold on or something because that’s my biggest fear,” Schrieber said.
Blosser called the series of events devastating, saying, "I never could of imagine something like this could happen."
She described Peale as a friendly, down-to-earth person who would do anything for others.