‘He went under and I never saw him again’: Friends mourn Peabody man who died after falling off cruise ship near Hull

The cruise company says Aaron Dibella, 21, of Peabody, was engaged in “horseplay” when he went into the water.

The Provincetown II.
The Provincetown II. –The Boston Globe, File

State police are investigating the death of a man who fell overboard off a Bay State Cruise ship near Hull on Saturday and drowned.

Authorities say Aaron Dibella, 21, of Peabody, went into the water around 8:30 p.m near Peddocks Island. The U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts Environmental Police, and state police responded to search for the young man, whose body was found using sonar and recovered by divers around 12:45 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Plymouth District Attorney’s Office.

Dibella was a passenger on board the Provincetown II, which was hosting a tropical luau party, according to The Boston Globe.

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The cruise company said in a statement that the 21-year-old fell into the water “after engaging in horseplay.”

Aaron Dibella. —Photo courtesy of Matthew Almon

“The tragic and overwhelming sadness that has swept through all of us; our crew, our staff – everyone associated with our company – has left us without adequate words to express just how sorry we are for the family and friends of the gentleman that went overboard,” the company’s owner, Michael Glasfeld, said in a statement. “We had him located and illuminated with the ship’s spot light, the several life rings were within just a few feet of him, and a crew member was additionally in the water also within five feet of him to assist.”

According to company, “minutes before” Dibella fell overboard he did “a type of vertical push up from the bulwark of the vessel” and was approached by a crew member who told him to climb down.

“Although the passenger initially appropriately responded to the warning of the [crew member] and climbed back down onto the deck, when the crew member turned to go back into the interior of the vessel, the passenger started in on the even more dramatic form of dangerous play,” the company said.

Jake Langlois, a friend of Dibella’s, told NECN they were on the cruise celebrating a friend’s birthday.

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“He was just being wild,” Langlois said. “Hung off the side and fell.”

Matthew Almon, 21, a close friend of Dibella’s since childhood, told the Globe said Dibella had decided to “joke around.”

“He thought it would be funny to sit up on the side and pretend as if he was going to hang off the side of the boat,” Almon said. “When he did that, he slipped and fell over.”

Almon estimated that about an hour passed between the initial warning given to his friend and when he fell overboard. He told the Globe that he and his friends had been drinking, though not excessively.

The boat had to turn around after Dibella went overboard, Almon told the Globe, estimating that it took about 15 minutes for them to locate his friend and attempt to reach him with life preservers.

“He was trying to get back. He was just trying to make it back and he was using all of his energy to get back,” Almon said. “I honestly think he thought he was going to make it. It was close.”

Langlois told NECN he tried to jump in the water to help his friend but was stopped by boat crew members.

“He went under and I never saw him again,” Langlois said.

Almon told the Globe that his friend went underwater when the crew member who jumped in to try and reach him was about an arm’s length away.

“I don’t know how they didn’t get him,” he said.

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According to the U.S. Coast Guard, search and rescue crews scoured about 14 nautical miles searching for Dibella after he went underwater.

The cruise company said it was “heartbroken” over the incident.

“The ache we feel for his loved ones, for the gentleman himself, is beyond description,” Glasfield said. “We are all unable to communicate the depth of the sorrow we feel over the incident”.

A family friend and neighbor told the Globe that Dibella spent most of his free time with his family.

“I’d see him sitting out there thinking he was a good-looking guy who could be out doing other things at his age, but he was happiest with his family,” Lonny Johnson told the newspaper.

A cousin told WCVB that the 21-year-old was in the Army.

Dibella’s mother, Suzanne, told the Globe that her son had a kind heart.

“He made friends so easily,” she said. “He cared for others so deeply, he lived a good life and he blessed many with his goodness.”