An autistic man who died after climbing over a deck railing on a cruise liner and jumping into the ocean may have done so because he thought he was going swimming, his family have said.
Luke Renner, 22, of Johns Creek, Georgia, went overboard while traveling on the Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy ship on 16 December. Renner was travelling in a group of nine from the Wishes4Me foundation at the time. The 2,675-passenger ship was on a five-day journey for Progreso, Mexico, having set off from Mobile, Alabama on December 15.
Carnival Cruise Line confirmed that a 22-year-old man with autism had fallen into the sea and that his family “believes he may have been under the mistaken assumption that he was going swimming.”
“Everyone at Carnival is deeply saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with the guest’s family and friends,” Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement. “Our care team is providing assistance and support to his family and traveling companions. The guest’s family has requested privacy. We will not be releasing any additional information and ask the media to respect the wishes of the family.”
Renner was on board with three chaperones, one of whom contacted crew members when they could not find him after he was last seen running out of his cabin. His parents were not on the ship for the journey.
While in port in Progreso, the Mexican Navy provided a search-and-rescue canine to assist in the search, but there was “not any conclusive result as to his whereabouts,” Vance Gulliksen, a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line, told Newsweek following Renner’s disappearance.
“It’s so sad,” Stacy Georges, Renner’s longtime caregiver, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I feel so bad for the people in the cruise. I’m sure they loved Luke. It could have happened to anybody.”
In a statement, the family said they are “heartbroken” at the 22-year-old’s death and do not blame the foundation for their loss, reports WKRG. “Luke was a light in our lives, funny, unusual, and, for a child with autism, loving and affectionate. He was our boy.
“The boy loved milkshakes, nachos, guacamole and smoothies. He loved the Wishes4Me special needs community where he lived, and we were delighted when they planned this special event. He loved cruises.
“Although we are devastated by his death, we are thankful he was there with people we loved and trusted, when he died. We are confident Wishes4Me watched over him with the utmost care and we do not hold them in any way responsible.”