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The U.S. Coast Guard is searching off the east coast of Florida for a Carnival Sensation cruise ship employee who reportedly fell overboard at 12:50 a.m. Thursday morning, about 20 miles from Vero Beach. The 26-year-old was identified as Antonio Matabang of California. PHOTO below.

Petty Officer 2nd Class James Harless said that the off duty entertainment staff member was with six co-workers when they saw him fall overboard. They threw him a life ring but he has not been located.

The Coast Guard received immediate notification shortly before 1:00 a.m. this morning and they dispatched a jet crew, 2 rescue helicopter crews and two 87-foot patrol boats, Cutter Bluefin and Cutter Shrike, from nearby Station Fort Pierce. The Carnival Sensation was also assisting in the search.

Carnival Cruise Lines issued the following statement: “The eyewitness accounts indicate that this was clearly an accidental overboard. Our thoughts and prayers are with this young man at this time as well as with his friends and family.”

The cruise ship makes 3-day and 4-day sailings between the Bahamas and Port Canaveral. In this case, the four day Bahamas cruise departed Port Canaveral on Sunday December 28 and docked back in Miami at 9:25 a.m. on Thursday, January 1, 2009.

The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search on Friday, January 2, 2009.

This is the second such incident within the past week. Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, was a cruise passenger who disappeared from the Norwegian Pearl on Christmas day. The U.S. Coast Guard searched for three days before calling off the search.

Patrol boats on scene below.