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Old January 17th, 2009, 03:18 PM
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The search has been suspended.



LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search Saturday for an elderly couple believed to have fallen off a Carnival Cruise ship between Long Beach and northern Mexico.

Officials suspended the aerial search about 8:30 a.m. for the 90-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife after determining their chances of surviving in the frigid water were slim, said Chief Warrant Officer Scott Epperson, a Coast Guard spokesman. Officials also consulted with the couple's relatives, who agreed to suspending the search, he said.

"Factoring in their age and weights, their survivability in 59 degrees water was about 4 to 6 hours," he said. "The last time they were seen was 84 hours ago."

Crews searched throughout the night, tracing the route of the Carnival Paradise ship, which started in Long Beach and stopped in Santa Catalina Island and Ensenada. The couple were aboard the ship when it left Monday, but they could not be found when it returned Friday morning.

The FBI, which is investigating their disappearance, plans to interview passengers and crew and the couple's family, agency spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Saturday.

Eimiller said the couple, whose names have not been released, were last seen Tuesday night near their cabin.

Miami-based Carnival said their cabin door was double-locked from the inside with a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the handle. Their belongings remained inside and the door leading from the cabin to the private balcony was unlocked.

"(They) are missing and presumed to have gone overboard," Carnival said in a statement.
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