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Search halted for passenger who fell into Boston Harbor

The Provincetown II had 370 passengers on a country music-themed cruise Saturday when the accident occurred.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

The Provincetown II had 370 passengers on a country music-themed cruise Saturday when the accident occurred.

Despite the efforts of several people to stop him, a man apparently tried to climb a railing on a harbor cruise and fell overboard, becoming the focus of an intense search that was called off late Sunday afternoon after more than 17 hours.

The Coast Guard and other agencies searched the waters around Castle Island, extending to Deer Island, through the night and into Sunday, Coast Guard spokesman Ross Ruddell said. The search was suspended around 5:30 p.m. Sunday after crews combed more than 151 square nautical miles with no sign of the man, according to a statement from the Coast Guard. Authorities have no plans to resume the search, a spokesman said.

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The 41-year-old man, who was aboard the Provincetown II with his girlfriend for a country music-themed cruise, was apparently “engaging in horseplay” around 10:30 p.m. before he fell off the rail, according to a statement from Bay State Cruise Co., which operates the boat.

A crew member running the deck’s DJ station turned the music off and called “man overboard” over the boat’s speaker system, said Michael Glasfeld, the company’s owner.

As soon as the ship’s crew hears a call for a man overboard, its members are trained to point at the person in the water so the captain and his crew can keep track of the location, he said.

“In this case, what was troublesome was that there was no one in the water to point at,” Glasfeld said. “When the gentleman went in the water he did not come back up to the surface.”

The man has not been publicly identified.

The Provincetown II, which was due to return to dock at 11 p.m., remained in the area until almost midnight to assist in the search. The Coast Guard and other agencies continued the search all night and into Sunday afternoon.

Interviews with passengers “indicate that the gentleman had been engaging in horseplay when he fell from the vessel,” the company said in its statement. “Two passengers . . . reported trying to grab at the man to stop him from an athletic leap, scaling up the ship’s railings.”

A member of the ship’s crew was 10 to 15 feet away from the man and also tried to stop the man from going up the railing, the company said.

The boat was traveling at about 5 miles per hour when the man fell into the harbor and was carrying 370 passengers and 21 crew members, Bay State Cruise Co. said in its statement.

“Losing somebody and having them go missing is an aberration I am glad to have not lived through before and am sad to live through now,” Glasfeld said in a phone interview. “Our hearts and blessings are with those close to the gentleman who has gone missing.”

Glasfeld said it was not known whether the man had been drinking alcohol before trying to climb the waist-high railing but said the ship’s crew monitors all guests for overindulgence.

“We put bracelets on these folks when they come aboard. If a crew member determines a person has had too much to drink, we remove the bracelet,” he said. “This gentleman’s bracelet was not removed.”

The Provincetown II weekend music cruises are marketed on the company’s Facebook page as “the wildest, largest parties on the water,” but Glasfeld suggested alcohol may not have been a strong a factor in Saturday’s incident.

“Liquor laws on boats are much more stringent than on land, and for all the right reasons,” he said. “Ten-thirty p.m. is the latest we will serve alcohol; we’re also required to stop serving a fixed amount of time before docking.”

Glasfeld said the ship’s crew is trained to handle man-overboard situations.

“We conduct these drills at least monthly where we make crew members go into the water and we retrieve them,” Glasfeld said.

According to Glasfeld, the Provincetown II is inspected annually by the Coast Guard. The last inspection took place in March, he said, and the ship passed without issue.

The Coast Guard declined to comment on any specific inspection and would only describe its general guidelines.

“The annual inspections look into safety aspects of the ship,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson. “They look over the vessel’s plans as far as man-overboard situations, abandon ship situations, to make sure they have an actual plan in place that follows a particular set of guidelines.”

Five Coast Guard ships — one cutter and four smaller vessels — and a Jayhawk helicopter assisted in the search Sunday, Ruddell said. The waters of Boston Harbor were 65 degrees and calm, the Coast Guard said.

Commander Sean Carroll, the search and rescue mission coordinator at Sector Boston, called the operation “a significant, multiagency effort.” Boston Police and Fire Departments, Boston Harbor Police, Quincy Police Department, State Police, and MassPort Fire Department were all involved.

Bay State Cruise Co. operates ferry service between Boston and Provincetown as well as cruises of Boston Harbor and private charters, according to the company’s website.

The Provincetown II has a capacity to accommodate up to 1,100 passengers, according to the Bay State Cruise’s website.

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.
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