herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Search as Irishman plunges from gay cruise

SEARCH efforts for an Irishman who fell overboard from one of the world's largest cruise ships continued today.

There is little hope that Kenneth John Gemmell (30), from Bailieborough, Co Cavan will be found alive after he plunged more than 100ft from the Allure of the Seas, a mile off the Mexican coast on Friday.

The Royal Caribbean International cruise line, claims that CCTV footage showed the British passport holder "intentionally went overboard".

It is understood that gardai visited Kenneth's distraught parents, James and Colette in Co Cavan, after they were informed of the tragedy by the British Foreign Office in London.

The young holidaymaker was on a seven-day cruise which departed from Fort Lauderdale in Florida on Sunday and was headed to the popular Mexican resort of Cancun.

The cruise line confirmed that the 5,400-passenger ship had been fully chartered by Atlantis Events, which describes itself, "the largest company in the world dedicated to creating unique vacations for the gay and lesbian community".

Atlantis Events also oversees two gay resorts in Mexico.

CCTV captured Mr Gemmell going overboard as the ship was sailing to Cozumel in Mexico at about 7.10am local time on Friday.



Footage

He fell from a balcony outside his luxury cabin on Deck 11 when guests were sleeping after an 'Eighties' party.

A passenger spotted him and alerted the ship's crew.

"The ship made multiple public announcements and they began a complete search of the ship, in efforts to locate the guest," the Royal Caribbean International cruise line stated.

"When the guest did not respond to the pages and was not found on-board, the captain alerted the local authorities of the situation.

"A review of the ship's closed-circuit camera footage observed the 30-year-old British male guest going over the balcony railing in his stateroom on deck 11."

It was reported that the cruise line had insisted Mr Gemmell had "intentionally" gone overboard, and "did not fall" over railings.

Commander Fernando Castanon Zamacona, who is leading the search, said that three Mexican navy launches were looking for Mr Gemmell, assisted by a Russian yacht, and a coastguard ship.



Grabbed

"The search will continue for another 72 hours or until we find the missing man," Mr Castanon Zamacona said.

Meanwhile, a well-known Irish music promoter died in the early hours of Saturday on another cruise in the Caribbean.

Tom Pigott (63), from Limerick, owned a business which promoted music and cultural tours of Ireland, principally to US tourists.

The father-of-three had performed with Mary Black just minutes before he suffered a heart attack.

"He had sung and Mary Black was harmonising with him," Billy Hogan, a friend of his, said last night.

"He then went back to his cabin at around 4am. He asked his partner for a glass of water, then grabbed his chest and he died from a heart attack, I'm told."

Mr Pigott's family are making preparations to have his remains repatriated to Ireland after the Norwegian Pearl docked in Miami.

hnews@herald.ie

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