On July 23, 2004, I received a call that changed my life forever…. My son, Christopher Paul Caldwell, had gone on a Carnival Cruise to Mexico with his fiancée.
On the last night of the cruise, Chris and his fiancée went to dinner with some friends they had met on the cruise. They had drinks and went to a couple of nightclubs on the ship.
When the couple and Chris’ fiancée went back to their cabins to pack and “turn in” for the night, Chris decided to stay in the casino and play a little longer. He told his fiancée that he would be back to the cabin shortly. He never returned!…
The next day, when Chris’ fiancée woke up at 6:30 A.M., she realized that he had not been back to the cabin and proceeded to look for him. After checking all possible places where he might have been, she went to the information desk and had him paged. This effort was to no avail.
Video surveillance cameras showed Chris leaving the casino at 2:17 A.M. Interviews with crewmembers revealed that a bartender saw Chris on the promenade deck at 3:30 A.M. and claimed that Chris appeared to be very drunk. Instead of escorting him to his cabin, the bartender ignored his condition.
Chris was never seen again… and to this day, we don’t know what happened to him.
It was just 8 days before he had celebrated his 37th birthday!
It is presumed that Chris fell overboard about 14 miles southeast of the Cape Florida Lighthouse. The Coast Guard began an extensive search that lasted for more than 36-hours. During these searches, there was no sign of Chris.
On the afternoon of the 24th, I received a call from my daughter, Shannon, informing me that the Coast Guard had called off the search… and that Chris was presumed dead.
Those words were like a bomb going off in my head. All I could do was scream and cry. That day, a part of my heart was destroyed and can never be replaced. I still look at his pictures with his three girls and I can’t believe that he is really gone from us.
If someone had just cared enough to take him to his room or if there had been video surveillance cameras monitoring the deck where he had last been seen, maybe he would be here today. Perhaps we wouldn’t have been forced to go through such intense grief. So many lives have been hurt by the loss of Chris.
I am unable to even watch a Carnival Cruise advertisement on TV without crying!!
One thing is for sure… My son, Christopher Paul Caldwell, was NOT insignificant. He was a very special and fun-loving person, a great son and a wonderful Dad to Jessica, Shelby and Kaylee. We all miss him so very much.
It makes me very sad that this type of thing keeps happening to other families. It has to stop!