Cruise Ship Suicide or Homophobic Hate Crime?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

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Bernardo Garcia Teixeira was allegedly called a ‘lipstick’ and a ‘pedophile’ by Royal Caribbean Cruise staff. Hours later, he plummeted to his death.

On the first night of Bernardo Garcia Teixeira’s Royal Caribbean cruise, the bartender called him and his husband “two lipsticks.” It was a sour way to start their trip last week to the dreamy Caribbean, where Teixeira and his partner, Eric Elbaz, had decided to sojourn to celebrate Elbaz’s 34th birthday. But a mere two days later, the trip turned into a veritable nightmare when Teixeira plummeted overboard, free-falling to his death in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the cruise line, Teixeira’s death was a suicide. But his husband believes that something more ominous happened—perhaps related to the homophobic taunts that he says the two men received from the Royal Caribbean staff.

“He did not jump,” Elbaz told reporters on Monday. “He was pushed over.”

On the first night of the “Oasis of the Seas” cruise, after the bartender’s crude “lipstick” remark, the couple aired their grievance with a supervisor, said Elbaz’s lawyer. Royal Caribbean switched out the server. Problem resolved.

On the third day of the cruise, Teixeira and Elbaz spent their time at sea consuming cocktails. Elbaz’s lawyer, Mike Winkleman, suggests the ship “over-served” the men and says that by the end of the day, the two were “extremely inebriated.”

They visited the ship’s art gallery, plunking down $1,000 on a painting for their new apartment in New York City. Then Elbaz retired to their seventh-floor state cabin while the 31-year-old Teixeira, a filmmaker, gravitated to the boat’s Flow Rider, a mechanized wave pool, where he shot video on his phone, according to Elbaz’s lawyer.

It was at the pool that another Royal Caribbean staffer allegedly called Teixeira a “pedophile” for taking video and demanded he stop filming.

The epithet sent Teixeira into a tailspin.

His husband Elbaz said he was “inconsolable.” Elbaz said he asked Teixeira, “Sweetheart, what happened?”
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“I can’t believe they treat me this way,” Teixeira replied, according to footage he shot while tearing apart the room and tossing lamps around. “They called me a pedophile. How could they do this to me?

“I have a husband. I’m not a pedophile.”

Teixeira’s fury woke his neighbors on the cruise, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated Teixeira’s death.

Witnesses say that a few minutes later, they saw Teixeira clinging from a lifeboat on the side of the cruise ship and apparently trying to hold on.

Around midnight, security was summoned. In footage released by Elbaz’s lawyer, two security members are in the room, their hands crossed in front of a shirtless Teixeira, who is sipping from a bottle of water and stating aloud that they are being recorded. “This is being broadcasted, actually,” he says while his husband apparently keeps recording. This is going straight to my server because I work with [the] Internet.”

It’s at this point that the security detail warned the filmmaker and his husband they had to quit recording, according to Elbaz’s lawyer. “Bernardo is saying ‘I can film it. I know what my rights are,’” Winkleman told The Daily Beast.

The two-minute standoff ended quickly, but not before Teixeira managed to send the video clip of the incident to his mother in Brazil.

“He did that because it was clear that what was being done to him was so wrong and he wanted to show it to the world,” Winkleman said.

Meanwhile, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has characterized the incident as a “domestic disturbance” between the two men and said that “things were being bashed,” according to spokeswoman Gina Carter.

But Elbaz’s attorney claims the security detail threatened to “take [Teixeira] away” and “put him in some type of holding cell.” And, the lawyer claims, that forced some sort of breakdown on Teixeira’s part.

“They interview them separately in the hallway,” Carter, the Broward County Sheriff’s spokeswoman, said. She added that the security guards left Teixeira alone in his room while they talked to Elbaz alone.

“At that point [Teixeira] looks into his cellphone and said ‘I’m going to jump overboard,’” she said.

Elbaz’s lawyer admits that Teixeira was “creating a big commotion” but framed it as a protest. “Quite frankly, if he was committing suicide, why in the world would he be hanging on for dear life by the side of the ship,” Winkleman told The Daily Beast.

Winkleman said that Teixeira was “mistreated by Royal Caribbean” and disputes the cruise line’s assertion that he and his husband were fighting before Teixeira’s death plunge. “If they were having a big fight why would they dump a bunch of money on a piece of art,” Winkleman said. “He basically cracked because of the way he was being treated by the crew.”

What happened next is unclear. Witnesses say that a few minutes later, they saw Teixeira clinging from a lifeboat on the side of the cruise ship and apparently trying to hold on. Horrified cruise-goers captured the scene on video (and then uploaded it to YouTube): Elbaz’s bloodcurdling screams can be heard in the background as Teixeira plummets from the lifeboat, crashing into another lifeboat two levels down and then falling into the ocean.

The boat kept going, possibly for more than three minutes, before it stopped, Elbaz’s attorney said.

“From second one when [Teixeira] went overboard Royal Caribbean knew exactly what was going on,” Winkleman, the attorney, said. “I didn’t see a single person try to rescue him,” he said, referring to the cellphone footage he’d watched. “I didn’t see a single rope or a life vest thrown… I didn’t see the ship stop in any way shape or form.”

The Coast Guard was called and it appears they were the ones to search for Teixeria, according to interviews that The Daily Beast conducted with various witnesses who were onboard.

“I awoke at around 5 a.m. to see the search boats outside my cabin,” one vacationer, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Despite the Coast Guard’s search efforts, Winkleman believes Royal Caribbean had a “duty to save Bernardo” and that they “failed in that duty.”

Royal Caribbean, in a statement on Teixeira’s death, stood by their security officers’ conduct. “Our officers responded professionally and appropriately to the incident in the stateroom. In addition, other security officers and crew risked their own lives in an attempt to rescue the guest from the lifeboat rigging where he had fallen.”

As he yelled for his husband, Elbaz is heard on his cellphone video recording, which is over 40 minutes long, screaming to cruise staff: “Why aren’t you helping him?”

“You did this to him. He was safe,” Elbaz wails. “You pushed him over.”