Authorities are searching for a male passenger reported missing from Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, August 11, 2023, as the cruise ship was approaching Hilo, Hawaii, the first port of call on a 16-night Hawaiian Islands sailing from Los Angeles. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has initiated search operations off the northeastern coast of the Big Island.
Both Hawaiian authorities and USCG teams are searching for a man, identified as 59-year-old Kenneth Schwalbe of California, overboard from a cruise ship near Hilo, Hawaii. The missing man is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 140 pounds and having brown hair.
The Hawai’i Police Department was notified of the incident at 8:40 a.m. on Friday morning, August 11, 2023. The police report notes that Schwalbe had been last seen at 8:30 p.m. the previous evening, Thursday, August 10, but no details have been revealed about why the missing person report was not initiated until the following morning.
Authorities have not officially identified the involved cruise ship as the Emerald Princess, but guests onboard have confirmed announcements from the ship’s captain pertaining to the incident. Emerald Princess is the only cruise ship to have been in the vicinity of Hilo at the time of the missing person notification.
The cruise ship was searched, but crew members were unable to locate the man, at which time Hawaiian authorities were notified. Video surveillance footage from the cruise ship was reviewed, and it was noted that at 4:18 a.m. Friday morning, an individual matching Schwalbe’s description was seen falling from the ship.
The camera that captured the footage was located on Deck 9 of the 113,561-gross ton vessel, which features 19 decks. Deck 9 is the ship’s “Dolphin” deck and features only staterooms, with no public areas other than a small laundromat.
Search operations were immediately initiated, including resources from the USCG. Because the surveillance footage was able to pinpoint the time of the man’s fall, the search area could be determined as approximately eight miles offshore Hilo, Hawaii.
No details about the circumstances of the man’s fall, his traveling companions, or other information is yet available.
At the time of the incident, Emerald Princess was sailing a 16-night Hawaiian Islands itinerary and had departed Los Angeles on Saturday, August 5. Hilo is the ship’s first scheduled port of call, followed by Honolulu, Nawiliwili, and Lahaina, before returning back toward the mainland and stopping in Ensenada before arriving in Los Angeles on Monday, August 21.
The call to Lahaina, however, has already been changed to a visit Kona due to the wildfire devastation on Maui this week. Much of historic Lahaina has been destroyed, and recovery efforts will take significant time.
The Grand-class Emerald Princess can host 3,080 guests at double occupancy, and has 1,200 crew members aboard.
There have been several overboard incidents in recent months, impacting different cruise lines in different sailing regions.
On July 31, 2023, a woman went overboard Royal Caribbean International’s Spectrum of the Seas while sailing near Singapore. The 64-year-old woman was known to be unable to swim, and was later declared deceased by family members.
Just days earlier, a male passenger went deliberately overboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Elation while the ship was en route back to Jacksonville, Florida, following a Bahamas cruise. Search operations were later suspended without success in locating the missing man despite a search area spanning more than 1,300 square miles.
In late April, a male guest went overboard from Quantum of the Seas, another Royal Caribbean International ship, while the vessel was sailing 500 miles south of Hawaii as part of a repositioning cruise from Brisbane, Australia to Alaska for the summer season. The search for that passenger was also discontinued without success.
Cruise Hive’s thoughts are with the friends and family members of the missing man at this troubled time, as well as with the ship’s crew and emergency personnel involved in search operations.
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