Overboard passengers are hardly unexpected.
All cruise lines have man overboard (MOB) procedures required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The procedures are fundamentally no different that what is taught to the public in United States Coast Guard (USCG) powerboat courses.
My family took such a USCG course many years ago.
One of the operational courses involves simulating a man overboard by throwing a life-vest overboard. We all practiced performing a "Williamson Turn" where the person operating the powerboat turned the wheel to the side of the overboard and then, at around 60 degrees, turned the wheel back to the opposite side to come around and position the boat to speed back to the location of the man overboard. As one person handled the helm, others stayed focused on the overboard or obtained the equipment necessary to bring the overboard back on the boat as soon as possible.
By the end of the course, even my youngest, 5th grade son understood the importance of promptly powering the boat back to initiate the rescue. We learned that every second was important.
Cruise ships are obviously not as maneuverable as a small powerboat. But the rescue protocols are fundamentally the same and equally important to passengers whether they went overboard from a small pleasure craft or a giant cruise ship..
We also learned that if the person overboard cannot be "immediately" located, we were required to notify the Coast Guard right away. All of the cruise lines are required to do so as well.
So when I learned that Royal Caribbean waited over two hours after a passenger observed another passenger go overboard from the Allure of the Seas to contact the USCG, I was absolutely shocked.
Not only did Royal Caribbean delay, it delayed outrageously so.
But it gets worst.
It not only delayed but it denied it delayed. It deceived the public by claiming that the captain of the Allure of the Seas "immediately" turned the ship around and notified the Coast Guard. Its corporate communication department set out to deceive the public by releasing a false and misleading PR statement claiming "immediate" action when, in truth, it delayed for hours.
Delay, deny, and deceive. We now have a dead passenger.
The young woman who went overboard has now been identified as A'riel Marion, a pretty young model with the rest of her life ahead of her. Her mother, Vera Marion, has hired a maritime lawyer in Miami, Brett Rivkind, to try and find out what happened and why Royal Caribbean didn't do at least what my young son would have done - turn the damn ship around and, if the young woman was not "immediately" located, notify the Coast Guard?
WMC-TV, a television station in the small Tennessee town of Bartlett where A'riel is from, interviewed A'riel's mother. Another passenger reportedly notified the cruise ship that she observed a passenger go overboard around 9:25 PM. Ms. Marion is quoted saying:
"They knew she had gone overboard. The woman called and said something from the deck fell and hit her arm. They immediately cleared off that side of the ship, but they never started the search."
Her attorney Rivkind added: "This is a very specific 911 call that a passenger from the cabin below was actually struck on the arm by the person who fell from the cabin above."
At 9:30 PM, the ship's staff brought Ms. Marion to private room.
Ms. Marion states: "They started asking me, could she swim? And that's when I panicked and knew that they knew that she had gone overboard."
Two hours later, at 11:30 PM the U.S. Coast Guard was called.
At 1:30 AM, the search for A'riel began.
"I believe they could save my daughter if they had began the search immediately," Ms. Marion told the news station.
Royal Caribbean has a lot of explaining to so.
But if history is any lesson, this cruise line will engage in more delay, denial and deception as it defends the lawsuit Ms. Marion will be forced to file to try and find out what happened to her daughter.
Read our other articles about this case:
Photo credit: WMC-TV