Woman falls from balcony of Jacksonville-based cruise ship, dies

Teen says he tried to help woman who fell on first night of 4-day cruise

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor, Melanie Schultz - Media content editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A teen told News4Jax that he tried to help a woman who fell from a balcony last week on a Jacksonville-based cruise ship, but she died.

A Carnival spokeswoman confirmed the death, which was reported on the first night of the Carnival Elation's four-day cruise to the Bahamas from Jacksonville. The ship returned to Jacksonville on Monday.

The woman's name, age and hometown have not been released, but cruise officials said she fell from her stateroom on Carnival Elation's Deck 14 to Deck 11, which is two decks below (there is no Deck 13).

Passenger Aiden Murphy, 15, said he did not see the woman fall but that he ran over to help her when passengers panicked.

"I ran out there to try to help the lady after we got the door open," Murphy said. "Another former first responder on the boat, he ran up with us, and he said that she was dead and there was no helping her."

He said it's been hard to forget the shocking sight.

“I’ve had a lot of trouble getting through it, because I’ve never seen anything like that,” Murphy said. “It was really scarring. The first night, I could not sleep, and the picture of her was there every time I closed my eyes. Her eyes were still open. It felt like she was looking at me. It was really terrifying.”

The cruise line said it notified Bahamian law enforcement, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard and Jacksonville police. Police are investigating the incident.

"The ship’s medical team responded immediately, but, unfortunately, she passed away," a statement from Carnival Cruise Line reads, in part. "The incident was reported to all proper authorities and CARE Team support was offered to fellow travelers and her family."

Passenger Kari Peebles said the incident affected all the passengers.

"I think everybody was just kind of in shock because it’s the last thing you would expect -- one of those tragic accidents to happen," Peebles said. "The captain all the next day was apologizing, asking for prayers for the deceased's family."

A letter to cruise line guests about the incident apologized for the delay it caused on the ship's arrival into Freeport.

“Given the nature of the accident which took place earlier this morning, we had to wait for clearance from the proper authorities,” the letter read. “Thank you for your patience and understanding. We ask that you kindly continue to keep our guest and her family in your thoughts and prayers.”

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