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Cruise Line Left Man to Die, Husband Claims

MIAMI (CN) - The husband of a man who died after falling overboard during a 2015 Royal Caribbean cruise claims in court that the line made no effort to try to save him or even recover his body.

In a federal complaint filed Tuesday in Miami, Erik Elbaz says, even before the tragedy that occurred on Nov. 6, 2015, employees of the cruise line had subjected him and his husband, Bernardo Texeira Garcia, to repeated homophobic taunts and slurs.

According to the complaint, the couple boarded the Royal Caribbean vessel Oasis of the Seas on Oct. 31, 2015, and were almost immediately forced to deal with offensive remarks and other behavior from the cruise line's staff.

Elbaz says complaints about the behavior to the offending employees' supervisors did nothing.

The situation came to a horrible climax on Nov. 5, 2015, Elbaz says, when one of Royal Caribbean's employees called Garcia a "pedophile."

Elbaz says that when he and his husband returned to their stateroom, Garcia was very upset about the discriminatory and offensive insults to which they'd been subjected.

A short time later, the complaint says, security officers arrived at the couple's stateroom, threatening to arrest Garcia.

After arguing with the officers, Elbaz says, a distraught Garcia fell from the stateroom, which was located on deck 7 and landed on life boats a deck below, where he held on for several minutes before plunging into the ocean.

"Several RCCL security officers and/or crewmembers grabbed Mr. Garcia by his arms and had a hold of him for several minutes, but ultimately failed to secure and rescue him from falling overboard," the complaint says.

Elbaz says watched in horror as Garcia fell 55 feet into the cold and dark ocean.

He claims he begged the Royal Caribbean officials to stop the ship and rescue Garcia, but they failed to help and only told him to "calm down."

"Royal Caribbean failed to deploy lifeboats within a reasonable time and failed to promptly stop and/or return the ship around," Elbaz says.

The U.S. Coast Guard performed a search-and-rescue operation after being notified by Royal Caribbean, but Garcia's body was never found.

The complaint says that there have been about 16 incidents of passengers falling overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships between 2000 and 2015, and out of those 16, only three have survived.

Elbaz seeks compensatory damages on claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the High Seas Act.

He is represented by Michael Winkleman from Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman.

Royal Caribbean Cruises failed to respond to an emailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

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