US Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Missing Cruise Ship Passenger

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
May 1, 2023Worldshare
US Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Missing Cruise Ship Passenger
Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship docks at Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore, on Dec. 9, 2020. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

The U.S. Coast Guard called off its search on Thursday for an Australian man who fell overboard from a cruise ship near Hawaii on Tuesday night.

The man, a passenger on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, was identified as 35-year-old Warwick Tollemache.

The cruise ship left Brisbane on April 12 and was expected to dock in Honolulu on Friday.

Three days after the cruise ship made stops in French Polynesia, Tollemache went overboard, plunging into the ocean about 500 nautical miles south of Kailua Kona, Big Island, around 11 p.m. local time Tuesday.

The exact circumstances surrounding the man’s fall from the ship remain unclear.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard were called in to assist in a search-and-rescue mission as the ship came to a halt.

The ship’s crew initiated a search that lasted for several hours, deploying six life rings and a search craft.

On Wednesday morning, a U.S. Coastguard HC-130 Hercules search and rescue aircraft was launched at 7 a.m. and arrived at the scene around 9 a.m., the coast guard said.

The airplane conducted five searches over the course of about six hours, according to a coast guard spokesperson, but no sign of Tollemache was detected. The aircraft then had to return to base to refuel.

A new search was planned for the following day; however, the search was called off in agreement with the missing man’s family.

“After reviewing all relevant information of the case and discussing it with the next of kin, the Coast Guard has made the difficult decision to suspend the active search for the passenger aboard the Quantum of the Seas,” said Kevin Cooper, a search and rescue mission coordinator for the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu.

Tollemache’s “on and off” girlfriend of six years Celina La Roche told Australian media that she was meant to go on the cruise with him, but professional obligations got in the way and Tollemache’s mother took her place.

La Roche said hearing the search was called off was devastating.

“I was still hoping until I heard they’d stopped the search and now … he could still be alive in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I won’t have closure personally until they find him. He knows how to float in water, we did it together when we were snorkeling.

“But his mum told me straight away, ‘He’s gone,’ so I just thought, ‘That’s it, he’s dead,’” she said.

Loved ones posted tributes to Tollemache on social media.

“Our family is heartbroken at the loss of our beloved Warwick,” wrote Tollemaches mother. “He was a kind, beautiful, and gentle soul who was adored by everyone who knew him. He will be deeply missed.”

A friend of the Brisbane man called his death “the worst news ever” in a Facebook post.

“I will miss you dearly my friend, my brother,” another wrote. “My heart is aching so much knowing that I won’t get to see you again or give you a hug.”

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