Cruise Ship Passenger, 75, Dies after 'Voluntarily' Going Overboard

A passenger of an Italian cruise ship has been confirmed dead after going overboard last week, an incident that sparked a major search and rescue operation.

The Maritime Safety and Rescue Society, which is known locally as Salvamento Marítimo, said on Twitter a search operation had been launched after a passenger was believed to have fallen from the eighth deck of a cruise liner shortly before 10:45 p.m. last Thursday.

Citing the German cruise ship news outlet Schiffe und Kreuzfahrten, World Maritime News reported the passenger was traveling on a vessel operated by Italy's Costa Cruises, known as the Costa Pacifica.

Officials have so far declined to release personal information about the victim.

Costa Cruises told Newsweek via email today the incident involved a 75-year-old woman. A company spokesperson said crew members were alerted by a witness who allegedly saw the unnamed passenger "voluntarily jump from the balcony of their cabin."

The body of the missing individual was later retrieved in Gulf of Cadiz at around 9 a.m. on Friday, the NATO Allied Maritime Command confirmed in a statement.

"Standing NATO Maritime Forces assisted search and rescue for a person reported missing from an Italian cruise ship sailing off the coast of Spain," it said in a notice about the incident. "NATO naval forces received a 'man overboard' mayday call at 22:26 pm on Thursday."

A company spokesperson told Newsweek via email today: "Costa Cruises regrets to confirm that on October 10 night while Costa Pacifica was sailing between Funchal and Malaga, a 75 year-old female passenger was reported overboard.

"Upon information received, the captain immediately turned around to search the location and alerted local search and rescue personnel. The ship was alerted by the guest's cabin mate, who witnessed the [person] voluntarily jump from the balcony of their cabin. As part of emergency procedures, the crew immediately launched a search and rescue mission."

It added: "As per procedure a review of CCTV footage has also being performed. The search and rescue authorities, who continued on the search operations, released the ship after few hours. The planned arrival to Malaga on Friday morning [was] affected by a delay due to the engagement on search operations under the coordination of the relevant authority.

"The Costa care team moved to provide full assistance to the travel partner and parents of the missing guest. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Schiffe und Kreuzfahrten reported the crew of Costa Pacifica searched for the missing person until 2 a.m. but the operation had to be called off due to a separate medical emergency.

Salvamento Marítimo said on Twitter a rescue tug boat called the Maria Zambrano recovered the body and took the remains to Algeciras.

NATO said units sent to the area included the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley, a French Maritime Patrol Aircraft and a Spanish Search and Rescue helicopter.

Officials said NATO ships were re-routed from an ongoing mult-nation exercise that is taking place off the coast of Spain, dubbed Dynamic Mariner/ Flotex-19. "The exercise brings together 32 surface ships, two submarines and 18 air assets, including Maritime Patrol Aircrafts and helicopters," the military alliance said in an October 7 media release.

As reported last month, a 35-year-old crew member of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship known as Rhapsody of the Seas died after going overboard while the liner was docked in Croatia.

"We are saddened by the tragic loss of our crew member and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Newsweek at the time.

Costa Pacifica
People look at the Costa Pacifica cruise ship in the port of Thessaloniki on 23 September, 2013. SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty