The incident, which occurred in the early hours of August 28, as the ship was 30 miles off of Cape Canaveral, involved a U.S. Army sergeant who was taking a vacation before shipping out to duty in Afghanistan. Sergeant Ronald Kemp, our source tells us, was intoxicated and had entered a crew-only area of the ship. There he was confronted by a female crewmember, who told him to leave. A physical confrontation ensued, during which time a security officer pepper sprayed Kemp, who then fled. Security gave chase, and Kemp ran up to the Verandah deck, one deck above the Lido deck. In order to evade security, he jumped over the railing, falling one level and landing on the Lido, and then continued to flee before grabbing a life ring and leaping overboard.
Carnival would not respond to our request to confirm any details beyond its prepared statement, which said that "earlier this morning at approximately 2:05 a.m., a 31-year-old male guest was witnessed jumping overboard from the Carnival Fascination while the vessel was roughly 30 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral. Several life rings were immediately thrown into the water, and the ship performed a maneuver designed to take it back to the location where the overboard occurred.
"The ship's command immediately notified all appropriate authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard, and commenced search and rescue operations. Carnival Fascination was released from the search by the U.S. Coast Guard earlier this morning. However, the U.S.C.G. is continuing the search and rescue effort. Carnival's CareTeam is reaching out to the missing guest's family to offer support."
After releasing Carnival Fascination from the search effort, the U.S. Coast Guard and some crew from the Air Force Reserve 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base continued to search through late Wednesday night. The search was suspended after crews covered 2,375 square miles over a 35-hour period.
Sergeant Kemp was on active duty with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and had served twice in Iraq, FloridaToday.com reported. He was scheduled to depart for a tour of duty to Afghanistan soon after the cruise.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor