explainer

The strange final messages from British man who disappeared off a cruise ship.

Arron Hough had been a much-loved crew member of the Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas cruise ship, performing in a production of Grease for guests each night.

But when the young British man failed to turn up for work on Christmas Day the entire ship, which was touring the Caribbean, was sent into panic.

A desperate search for the 20-year-old dancer failed to find any trace of him. And that’s when it became apparent that he had fallen overboard.

CCTV footage captured Arron enter Deck 5 of the vessel about 4am on December 25, and did not capture him leave. Officials have not said if his fall, the circumstances of which remain a mystery, was caught on film.

The ship had been travelling from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to its first stop, the island country of St Maarten. The alarm wasn’t raised to the US Coastguard until 1.45pm Christmas Day.

The US Coastguard’s search for the man focussed on an area of ocean 430km northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico where he was believed to have gone overboard, the Miami Herald reports. On Friday, they suspended their search for Arron.

“We’ve been in contact with members of Mr Hough’s family throughout our search efforts and know this is a very difficult and painful time for them,” Commander Christopher Douglas, chief of response for Coast Guard Sector San Juan, said, according to The Sun.

“Suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make as first responders, and it is never made lightly.”

New information would now be needed for the coastguard to resume their search.

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Arron’s final days

A reading of Arron’s final tweets paint a picture of his mindset in the days leading up to his disappearance.

In one on December 22, he appeared to have been not coping well with the sea rocking of the ship. Then, a short time later he posted a cryptic and poetic few lines about the beauty “beneath the water”.

His final tweet was a short clip from their ship’s production of Grease, showing off the moves of the dancer playing Cha-Cha.

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A statement from Royal Caribbean International suggests they believe the young man perished when he went overboard.

“We are saddened to report that after a review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage, he was observed entering an area on Deck 5 at around 4am and was not seen again,” a Royal Caribbean International spokeswoman told Travel Weekly.

“Local authorities were notified and a ship-wide search for the crew member was conducted. Our care team is providing support to the family and friends of our colleague.”

However, friends and family haven’t given up hope of finding the young man alive and are using the hashtag #PrayforArron on social media.

Members of the dance school he attended sent out tweets of hope that the US Coastguard’s search, now suspended indefinitely, would end in a successful rescue.

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The reality is, however, that the chances of finding Arron alive are slim, but so is even finding him at all.

Of the other four people who went missing on cruise ships since late November, not one has been found.

If you are experiencing crisis, you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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