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FBI Investigating Why South Carolina Woman Jumped Off Cruise Ship Near Cuba

kaylyn sommered
Kaylyn Rose Sommer on Norwegian Pearl

MIAMI – Federal agents were on hand at the Port of Miami on Sunday to begin an investigation into reports that a 24-year-old woman jumped overboard from a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship as it sailed off the coast of Cuba.

Kaylyn Rose Sommer “was observed intentionally going overboard from a stateroom balcony” aboard the Norwegian Pearl about 7 p.m. Thursday when the ship was about 22 nautical miles off Cuba’s north coast, according to a statement from cruise line officials.

“Agents met the ship as it pulled into port,” said FBI spokesman Michael Leverock in an email Sunday.

Sommer, from Charleston, S.C., was aboard for the Mad Decent Boat Party, billed as a four-day party of electronic dance music that would take place as the chartered, 965-foot liner sailed from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, and back.

Sommer is the second passenger reported to have gone overboard from a cruise ship within a week. On Nov. 6, Bernardo Elbaz, 31, of Brazil fell off the Royal Caribbean ship Oasis of the Seas near the Turks and Caicos.

Despite a search by the ship’s crew and the U.S. Coast Guard, Elbaz was not found. In the search for Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line officials said in a statement that the ship’s crew “immediately initiated rescue measures, including deploying three rescue boats and notifying the Coast Guard and other relevant authorities.”

The Coast Guard called in the cutter Alligator and a C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater to search more than 1,300 square nautical miles before suspending the hunt Saturday, officials said.

“We are all sons and daughters, and many of our responders have young children themselves,” said Capt. Todd Coggeshall, Incident Management Chief at the Coast Guard’s Seventh District. “Suspending search efforts is always a painful decision, particularly when it involves a young mother.”

According to social media, Sommer is the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, Rylee. The woman’s father, Michael Sommer, told the little girl that her mother was lost at sea, WFOR-Ch. 4 reported.
Reached by cellphone Sunday morning, Michael Sommer said, “I have no comment right now.”

According to Mad Decent Boat Party’s Facebook page, those on the cruise would visit Cozumel and “the Playa Mia Grand Beach & Water Park for an exclusive party that includes lunch on us, an open bar, admission into their water park, and shows from some of your favorite artists.”

Among those scheduled to perform were Skrillex and Major Lazer.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that one of our guests on our current cruise went overboard on [Thursday]” organizers said in a statement posted on Friday.

“Our hearts go out to the family and all involved in this incident, and we will continue to support those affected during this difficult time.”

The promoter of Mad Decent Boat Party is Sixthman, an Atlanta-based company that began creating music festivals in 2001, according to its website. Sixthman officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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