Relatives of an autistic Georgia man who jumped overboard on a Carnival Cruise ship said he may have believed he was going swimming.
“Carnival Cruise Line regrets to report that the 22-year-old male guest with autism who was missing on Carnival Fantasy went overboard after climbing over the deck rail,” said Carnival in a statement to WKRG. “His family believes he may have been under the mistaken assumption that he was going swimming.”
Luke Renner of Johns Creek, near Atlanta, was identified earlier this week as the person who plunged off the Mexico-bound cruise. He was traveling with a group that works with disabled adults, CNN reported.
Carnival told the U.S. Coast Guard that it was unable to located Renner, and Mexican officials were notified by the firm. The Coast Guard said on Dec. 20 it is “engaged with the Carnival Fantasy and is continuing to monitor the situation,” according to CNN.
“Everyone at Carnival is deeply saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with the guest’s family and friends. 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,” the cruise operator also said in its statement to WKRG.
His family also issued a statement on the 22-year-old’s death.
“We are heartbroken at the death of our beloved son, brother, and grandson. Luke was a light in our lives, funny, unusual, and, for a child with autism, loving and affectionate. He was our boy,” they said. “The boy loved milkshakes, nachos, guacamole, and smoothies.”
Their statement added: “We truly believe he knows he was well loved, but we would like to ask him why he hid a favorite decorative pillow, his sister’s curling iron, and father’s new camera lens. We know he will answer with that mischievous smile that warmed our hearts and will remain with us forever.”
Stacy Georges, Renner’s caregiver for many years, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was with a group of nine with Wishes 4 Me Foundation for a five-night trip that departed Mobile, Alabama.
“I feel so bad for the people on the cruise. I’m sure they loved Luke. It could have happened to anybody,” Georges said.
His family also didn’t want to blame anyone for his death.
“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 Wishes 4 Me watched over him with the utmost care and we do not hold them in any way responsible,” the statement said.
Georgia Autism Advocacy also posted a statement about Renner’s death.
“With sad hearts, we are sharing the news about Luke. Many of you know and love the Renner family and will want to keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this time of grief,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Renner was described by Georges as “very friendly” and “happy.”
“He always tried to please the adults. He comes from a very sweet Christian family,” she added.