Yesterday, Paul Motter's popular online cruise community "Cruisemates" published an interesting article entitled "Mainstream Media Stupidity over Cruising." The article is about the weird and sad story of an irate and perhaps drunk father throwing his 7 year old son overboard during a cruise around a harbor in Southern California on a sight-seeing boat.
Cruisemates was upset that most of the stories carried headlines that the incident occurred aboard a "cruise ship" as opposed to a tour boat.
I was initially sympathetic to Cruisemates' plight. Most media reports characterized the tour boat as a "cruise ship" when in fact the overboard incident occurred on a little 100 passenger tub cruising around the harbor.
I was one of the first to blog and tweet about the bizarre story about the dad who pitched his crying 7 year old son over the rails and into the water (the child was rescued and is physically okay). I was careful not to label it as a "cruise ship" incident. And I also offered my perspective that I have never heard of a child ever being thrown from a cruise ship, or any other type ship, for that matter.
But Cruisemates then went overboard in its defense of the cruise industry. Passenger safety is a touchy issues for Cruisemates. When the cruise lines were under siege in a series of U.S. Congressional hearings over the past many years inquiring into the disappearance of passengers on cruise ships, Cruisemates was on the front line defending the cruise industry in the media. Every single overboard incident, according to Cruisemates, was a suicide or due to drunken recklessness.
Cruisemates's unequivocal defense of the cruise industry has been unwavering, but has left it blind as a bat. Cruisemates writes yesterday:
"There is absolutely NO documented crime where a person, dead or alive, was ever thrown off of a cruise ship, and I expect the news media to know and respect that fact."
The family of Karen W. Roston may tend to disagree with this statement.
Ms. Roston was 26 years old when she went overboard on the last night of her honeymoon cruise from the Sundancer cruise ship operated by Admiral Cruises of Miami. Her husband, Scott Roston (photo right), claimed that high winds blew her overboard as she ran on the jogging track on an upper deck. But evidence introduced at his criminal trial indicated that the winds were just 4 - 5 mph.
An article in the LA Times explained that investigating FBI agents found Ms. Roston's hair embedded in the rubberized jogging track along with a broken earring matching one she was wearing in a photograph taken at a shipboard dinner. Mr. Roston was observed with scratches on his face after her disappearance. A medical examiner concluded from an autopsy that Ms. Roston had been strangled. Mr. Roston was tried for murder. The prosecutor stated "she was strangled and then thrown overboard . . . "
A jury convicted Mr. Roston of murder. An appellate court affirmed his conviction in the case of United States v. Roston, 986 F.2d 1287 (9th Cir. 1992). In affirming the murder conviction, the court noted:
Here, there was evidence of a substantial struggle. Parts of the decedent's earrings and remnants of her hair were found on the deck 11 1/2 feet from the railing where she went overboard. The injury to her forehead was consistent with the prosecution's theory that her head had been smashed against the deck of the ship. The hemorrhaging and bone warping in her neck indicated she had been strangled. The cumulative effect of this evidence suggests that the decedent's assailant, over the course of a fairly prolonged struggle, intended to kill her. Moreover, the killing process continued beyond the struggle and strangling. The decedent was not dead, but only unconscious when she was pushed or thrown into the ocean.
Cruisemates' claim that there is no documented crime where a person was thrown off of a cruise ship is false. Its claim is disrespectful to the families of loved ones like Ms. Roston, and others thrown overboard from cruise ships.
Photo credit: AmericanTribune.org