Search for Cruise Ship Passengers Called Off, Couple Presumed Dead

The search and rescue operation tasked to find two individuals traveling on a Carnival cruise ship was called off on Friday.

A host of sea and air search teams had been actively canvassing a wide swath of ocean off the coast of Forster in hopes of finding Paul Rossington, 30, and Kristen Schroder, 27.

Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings, of New South Wales Police, told the APTN news service that he had studied video footage, but was still unable to determine how the pair fell overboard.

"It was at night time so you can't really tell whether it was a male or female that went over first, they went over around the same time," Hutchings said. "But again, without further investigating everything else that may have gone one, it was a bit hard to speculate exactly about what occurred just from that (footage)."

Search-and-rescue planes and boats had been scouring an area that was roughly 500 square nautical miles off Australia's eastern coastline.

"We've called off the search now … and it won't resume," a New South Wales Police spokesman said. The spokesman did add the it the search "resume if we get any confirmed sightings … concrete evidence that, yes, they are out there and they need rescue."

The two were traveling on the Carnival Spirit and the crew contacted authorities after a head count revealed the two were not aboard the vessel.

Investigators speculated the two could have gone missing sometime on Wednesday when they were last reported being seen by fellow passengers.

The NSW Police, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority officers had all been searching to find the passengers but were unable to do so.

The two are thought to have fallen off the vessel from a mid-deck area 65 feet above the water's surface. Investigators added that the deck has 8-foot tall barricade to prevent such accidents.