A 14 year Carnival cruise passenger was shot and killed today after arriving in St. Thomas aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship. Lizmarie Perez Chaparro was riding in a "safari bus" with her family when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout.
According to the AP, the young girl and her family had sailed from San Juan on Sunday. Another cruise ship passenger sustained a minor injury during the shootout. Another person, not from the cruise ship, 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, was also shot and killed. Mr. Joseph was attending a funeral for another young man murdered last month.
Governor de Jongh issued a statement indicating that the deaths were caused by gangs waging "street justice" to settle their differences.
The tourist bus was hit by gunfire on its way to Coki Point Beach. Although this is a destination advertised by the cruise lines for snorkeling and scuba, Carnival denies that this was a Carnival excursion.
St. Thomas has been a hot spot for crime, including violent crimes against tourists for many years. Cruise lines face liability for subjecting their guests to harm and not warning them of the risk of such violence.
There is a local blog by the Big Kahuna discussing the tragedy and the problem with crime on the island. The blog mentions that the astronomical murder rate is 42 this year in a population of only 100,000. One of the readers left this comment: "This morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Carnival Victory sail into port this morning. Unknowingly,that ship was bringing a little innocent girl here to be murdered. That’s difficult to grasp, it’s haunting . . ."
Carnival PR person Jennifer De La Cruz said Carnival suspended all excursions to the beach. The Carnival PR people crafted a statement that the incident was "unfathomable" and the Captain of the cruise ship used the word "shocked." These are code words for "not foreseeable," meaning the cruise line is denying that it is responsible for sailing its guests into a port with high crime and street violence.
A wanted poster of the suspect is in the St. Thomas Source. This newspaper also has an excellent article about crime in the Caribbean: "Drugs, Gangs and Guns Fueling Caribbean-Wide Crime Surge."
A letter to the passengers signed by Captain Salvatore Messina is below.
June 13, 2010 Update: The El Nuevo Dia newspaper in Puerto Rico is reporting that Ms. Chaparro's family was cruising to celebrate her upcoming quinceanera and her parents' wedding anniversary. The cruise line PR people and the tourism officials are in overdrive, announcing that the murder is "isolated" and the islands remain a "safe destination for tourists."
June 15, 2010 Update: The popular USA TODAY Cruise Log has a blog: "Shooting death of cruiser in Virgin Islands comes as killings there soar."
June 16, 2010 Update: Virgin Islands Daily News has an article "Cruise lines warn passengers about Coki Point shooting," discussing how many cruise lines are warning p[assengers about crime in St. Thomas and suspending excursions to the Coki beach area. Cruise Critic has an interesting article "Who's Responsible for Warning Cruise Travelers About Dangers in Port?"
June 18, 2010 Update: "Heartache wrenches those who knew slain girl."
Were you on the cruise? What are your thoughts about crime in St. Thomas and in other Caribbean ports of call? Please leave a comment below . . .
We have written a number of articles about the high crime rate in the Caribbean ports of call in prior articles:
Photo Lizmarie Perez Chaparro Javier Rivera / END via El Nuevo Dia
Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship bajan.wordpress.com