Army NCO Missing After Leap From Cruise Ship


Military officials say the man who jumped from a Carnival cruise ship Tuesday off the Florida coast is an Army soldier stationed in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sgt. Ronald Kemp, 31, is assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, according to Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Air Force reservists are still searching for Kemp, who was last seen by Carnival security jumping off the top deck of the ship Tuesday into the waters off the Volusia County coast.

Larson said Kemp's family was notified immediately and Army officials are providing support.

Officials wouldn't speculate on the possible reasons Kemp jumped.

Kemp is an Iraq war veteran, having served two tours overseas. He was assigned to the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield in September 2010 and has been stateside ever since, officials said.

A security guard said he saw Kemp leap from the 10th deck of the Carnival Fascination into the water 87 feet below at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.

Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing based at Patrick Air Force Base launched an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter Tuesday afternoon to help the Coast Guard canvass of the area where Kemp disappeared, about 25 miles off Ponce Inlet.

The Coast Guard is using several boats and an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.

The ship left Jacksonville Monday at about 5 p.m. and was on the way to Key West

Carnival spokeswoman Aly Bello said the Coast Guard released the 2,400-plus passenger ship Tuesday morning to continue its five-day trip to the Bahamas. The call at Key West was canceled.

The 10th deck is ringed by 42-inch high railings that comply with federal and international standards, officials said.

Bello said the crew threw life rings into the water immediately after Kemp jumped. It's not known whether the man grabbed any of the five rings, said Petty Officer First Class Lauren Jorgensen, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The ship then turned back to the location where Kemp went overboard.

"The ship's command immediately performed a maneuver that is specifically designed to bring the ship back to the location where the overboard occurred," Bello said in a statement. "Search lights and binoculars were used to try to spot the individual. U.S.C.G. arrived on the scene quickly to initiate their search and rescue operation as well."

The Pave Hawk is a modified version of the Army Black Hawk helicopter. The Coast Guard ships were a 210-foot cutter, a 154-foot cutter, an 87-foot cutter and a 47-foot Motor Life Boat, the standard lifeboat of the Coast Guard that is designed to operate in high winds and rough waters.

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