Autistic man who went overboard on Carnival ship may have wanted to swim, family says

An autistic man who disappeared Sunday while on a Carnival cruise ship climbed a railing along the side of the vessel and went overboard, according to Carnival.

The reason the man – identified by his family as 22-year-old Luke Renner of Johns Creek, Georgia – jumped from the ship is unknown. But in a short statement, Carnival said his family believes he thought he was going swimming.

“Everyone at Carnival is deeply saddened, and our thoughts and prayers are with the guest’s family and friends,” the line said in the statement, which was sent to USA TODAY.

RELATED: Man missing from Carnival ship in Gulf of Mexico

The incident took place on the 2,052-passenger Carnival Fantasy, which was on a five-night cruise out of Mobile, Alabama. The vessel was in the Gulf of Mexico sailing to the Mexican port of Progreso at the time Renner disappeared, and a search was conducted. But Renner was never found and is presumed dead. 

Renner was on the cruise with a group from Wishes4Me, a non-profit organization that assists adults who are disabled. He lived at a Wishes4Me special needs facility. 

Cameras on Carnival Fantasy captured the moment Renner climbed over the ship’s railing.

In a statement forwarded to USA TODAY, Renner’s family said it didn’t blame Wishes4Me for his death. The group that Renner was with included nine people with special needs and three chaperones. 

“Although we are devastated by his death, we are thankful he was there with people we loved and trusted when he died,” the statement said. “We are confident Wishes4Me watched over him with the utmost care, and we do not hold them in any way responsible.”

The family said it was heartbroken by Renner’s death, calling him a beloved son, brother, and grandson.

“Luke was a light in our lives, funny, unusual, and, for a child with autism, loving and affectionate,” the statement said. “He was our boy.”

Renner’s family added that he loved cruises. 

“Luke is with Jesus now, jumping up and down, and he can express himself clearly, and be understood,” the statement said. “No more seizures, no more meds.”

Renner is the second Carnival passenger to go overboard from a vessel this month. A 26-year-old man earlier this month went overboard from the 2,764-passenger Carnival Victory in what the line has called an intentional act.

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