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Autistic man who went overboard on Carnival cruise was traveling with special needs group

Autistic man, Luke Renner, climbed deck rail, went overboard Source: Curran Public Relations/Renner Family By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Joe Sutton, CNN

(CNN) -- The family of a 22-year-old autistic Georgia man who went overboard on a Mexico-bound cruise says he was traveling with a nonprofit organization that works with disabled adults.

Luke Renner of Johns Creek, an Atlanta suburb, climbed over a deck rail the day after the ship departed from Mobile, Alabama, according to Carnival Cruise Line. Renner went missing Sunday evening from the Carnival Fantasy, the cruise line said.

"His family believes he may have been under the mistaken assumption that he was going swimming," a Carnival statement said.

Carnival informed the Coast Guard on Monday that it was not able to find Renner, and Mexican authorities were notified. The Coast Guard said Thursday morning it "is engaged with the Carnival Fantasy and is continuing to monitor the situation."

The family has requested privacy but released a statement saying Renner loved milkshakes, nachos, guacamole and smoothies, and describing him as "a light in our lives, funny, unusual, and, for a child with autism, loving and affectionate. He was our boy."

"Luke is with Jesus now, jumping up and down, and he can express himself clearly, and be understood. No more seizures, no more meds. We can't wait to talk to him," the statement said.

"We truly believe he knows he was well loved, but we would like to ask him why he hid a favorite decorative pillow, his sister's curling iron, and father's new camera lens. We know he will answer with that mischievous smile that warmed our hearts and will remain with us forever."

Renner also loved cruises and the Wishes 4 Me special needs community where he lived, the family said. The nonprofit bills itself as an organization that helps disabled adults achieve more active and involved lives.

"No one knows what a normal life really looks like, but all of us essentially want the same thing- independence, love and dignity," the group's website says.

Wishes 4 Me, which the family says planned the cruise, did not immediately reply to an overnight email seeking comment, but the family said in its statement it casts no blame on the organization.

"Although we are devastated by his death, we are thankful he was there with people we loved and trusted, when he died. We are confident Wishes 4 Me watched over him with the utmost care and we do not hold them in any way responsible," the family said.

Renner will be remembered at a private celebration, they said.

The Fantasy is scheduled to return Thursday from its trip to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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