Witnesses to Gem Drowning: "NCL Screwed Up"

Earlier this week, a 10 year old child drowned in a crowded swimming pool on NCL's Norwegian Gem

It's the seventh time that a child has drowned, or nearly-downed, on a cruise ship in just two years. The incidents occurred on cruise ships operated by all of the major cruise lines' ships: Carnival, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. None of the cruise lines employed life guards at the time. (Disney subsequently changed its policy after a child sustained catastrophic and permanent injuries requiring lifetime medical care.) 

Following the death of the little girl, NCL issued a press release, which avoided the issue of lifeguards, but touted its allegedly "quick" and "full" NCL Norwegian Gemresponse by its ship's medical team.

"On Sunday afternoon, the ship's medical team responded to an emergency call from the pool deck, as a ten year-old female guest was reported unresponsive. The team quickly administered CPR and full emergency care. After extensive efforts, the guest could not be revived."

But witnesses on the ship dispute NCL's PR statement.  

Several cruise passengers left messages regarding what they witnessed:

One passengers said: 

"I'm still on the Gem now. And i was right there. On this incident I can blame NCL for their lack of effort. Passengers who were nurses and doctors did all the work while NCL workers watched and looked panicked. They did not know what to do. They kept telling the real nurses and doctors to stay away. I talked to one of the ICU nurses and she said they are handling it all wrong. They told her to move away meanwhile shes yelling at them on what to do. The girl had a pulse. . . . Bottom line, NCL dropped the ball on this on big time. If you weren't there then don't say a thing backing NCL. Cause they did absolutely nothing. The passengers came to the rescue. Applaud them. They were fighting for the kid while NCL looked DAZED."

Another passenger remarked:

"My wife and I witnessed this tragic event right before our eyes while on board the Gem this past week. My wife is a registered nurse and tried to help, but was told 'they were handling it and to stay away' . . . she was completely upset with the lack of treatment she witnessed by the staff personnel. That poor girl was being worked on by inexperienced people, pool side for more than 15 minutes before being rushed down to the medical center.

As a parent traveling with 3 kids, I agree it is our responsibility to "watch our children." However the pool deck was really crowded at that time, and with those crowds it was very easy to lose sight of your kids. The family pool is 5' - 6' deep, which is very dangerous IMO for children and inexperienced swimmers. I'm amazed that NCL wouldn't employ trained lifeguards with that setup.

The bottom line is an innocent child died, and my heart goes out to the family."

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) argues that cruise lines "manage pools with the safety of passengers" by providing "signs that a lifeguard is not present."

This, of course, is double-talk. Four and six year old kids like the ones who drowned on lifeguard-less cruise ships can't read or comprehend warning signs. A no-lifeguard sign recommended by the cruise lines' defense lawyers is an acknowledgment that the cruise industry is committed to a policy of not providing reasonable safety to children. 

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Comments (18) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Sheri - May 24, 2015 4:41 PM

I must concur with passengers, but many lines drop the ball NOT only on drownings. I was aboard a transatlantic Costa Cruise and as we docked in Miami during the breakfast hour, one of the patients fell over with her lips turning blue. I am a PADI 5, Rescue Diver trained extensively in CPR. I attempted to assist the passenger and was told numerous times to step aside or risk getting arrested. While everyone stood around waiting for the medical staff to arrive. When the arrived, they had no equipment and had to leave to retrieve it. All the while the passenger is on the ground of dining hall. When people kept asking me why I was not helping I had to inform them that I could NOT since I was instructed to stay away from the passenger. Something does need to be done.

Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero - May 25, 2015 11:00 AM

I had just taken my five year old into this pool a week before and noted how unsafe the whole setup was.The above posts are very disturbing. Is there an online petition to employ lifeguards on cruise ships? Maybe a boycott is needed.

John Jacobs - May 25, 2015 12:28 PM

We've cruised with NCL before. The incidents described here are very disturbing, and I don't think we'd sail with NCL again based on what we just learned.

Misty - May 25, 2015 5:34 PM

I was unfortunately the ICU nurse that one eyewitness spoke about in one of the comments. I agree that it is EVERYONE's responsibility to watch children around water . They should have a lifeguard, and parents should also be watching. One thing that I have failed to find in ANY news article, including this one, was a lack of equipment. CPR can only go so far, and I personally believe that it was a lack of WORKING EQUIPMENT readily available that was the biggest factor in her death. It took over ten minutes to even get an AED, suction, or any form of medical supplies to the scene. I literally saw a NCL worker WALK to get oxygen. When suction arrived, it did not even work. When she finally was hooked up to the AED, there was no pulse (asystole) so she could not be shocked. It took too long.... I was at the other end of the 12th deck (pool deck) when this happened, and it took about 3 minutes to run from where I was to the scene. By time I got to her, she had no pulse. This was unfortunate, and I hope that this is an eyeopener to all cruiselines, as well as parents. And one more thing, I have been on the NCL Gem twice now, and I have NEVER seen an AED throughout the ship. There HAS to be more medical equipment throughout the ship, not just on the 4th floor (literally 8 floors down from the pool!). There has to be equipment readily available by the poolside. Rest in peace little angle, I am so sorry we could not save you. Please everyone, instead of arguing on who is to blame, please pray for her and her family, and that this will never happen again.

Jo Anne - May 25, 2015 8:01 PM

I too was right there when this tragic event occurred. I don't know if the outcome would have been any different if there would have been equipment or competent help available, but the response time was way too long. And when personnel finally came they had nothing with them and had to send for oxygen, suction, and other equipment. It was all very sad.
I noticed 2 days later by the adults pool they have a shepherds hook for pulling someone in trouble out of the pool. I also noticed it was so high up on the wall you would need someone about 6'5" to reach it.

Mile - May 26, 2015 12:10 PM

This is a tragedy without doubt. But parents need to understand at any pool or body of water, lifeguards, if any are only supposed to be a backup to YOU, the parents and not the primary safety net. Just look at any pool this summer and watch the parents sitting around talking and drinking while their kids (who really can't swim very well anyway and rely on being able to touch the bottom) are running around wild. Far too many parents rely on the silly water wings and other "flotation" devices to help their kids "swim". My 3 (ages 6, 5 and 3) kids have all spent years in swim lessons (infant swimming resources) since about 9 months old. I still only exclusively watch them when they are in the pool or I am in the water with them.

I was there - May 26, 2015 2:23 PM

Hi Jim - My fiance, parents, brother,future sister-in-law and I were all passengers on the Gem when this awful tragedy happened.
While I wasn't as close to the situation as these other passengers were (we had chairs on the 13th floor deck area), I can tell you that the NCL staff took FOREVER to do anything to help this poor little girl. It is the passengers who should be commended for stepping in and doing all they could do to help. It is an image I will never forget.
We will NOT sail with Norwegian ever again. God Bless this angel and her family.

Marty - May 27, 2015 2:16 PM

Very sad to hear about another youngster drowning on a NCL ship. Brings back very haunting memories and images of two young boys I saw suffer the same fate last year on the Breakaway. What is most disturbing is reading the accounts of how long it took for the ship's personnel to react. EERILY, identical to last year's tragedy. We, meaning myself and two other passengers pulled those little boys from the pool. We the passengers administered CPR while awaiting the arrival of the medical personnel. The bartender at the pool continued to serve drinks while refusing to make another call for IMMEDIATE HELP. Same scenario, they took too long. They youngest of the two didn't make it. Not sure the status of the other little guy. He was removed from the ship alive, but we were denied any information as to his condition. Based on the length of time he was in the water, I don't think he has a promising future. I do want to note, the boys were unattended, it was early around 10:00 in the morning. Pool was virtually empty. Apparently, they wandered out of the day camp. I pray for those boys and their family everyday. I am also very grateful for everyone of the few nights I don't have nightmares about the incident. I have always been keenly aware of my grandchildren's safety, especially around water, but now it is all very different. I am on HIGH alert for any children around water. I will pray for this young lady's family. Thanks for listening

Connie - May 29, 2015 9:24 PM

I was on the Gem when this tragedy occurred but I was not at the pool. Although it is disturbing if there was a delay in the ship's response but what is equally disturbing is that the very next day, while I was at the pool, another child had to be removed from the pool while floundering in the water. One of the two posted employees alerted her colleague to the child's situation in time to get her out safely. He carried the little girl over to her mother who was not seated where she could see her children in the pool. After what had happened the day before, I couldn't believe how far away she was from the pool! What has to happen to make people understand that their children are their responsibility? The ship is not a babysitting service.
Parents have to watch their kids. Period.

Lynn - May 31, 2015 8:28 PM

I have been on the Gem previously with a serious situation. A young girl, 8 years old, was clinging to the edge of the adult only pool. She would then "swim" from side to side of the pool while stopping to hold the edge. When I asked if her mom was with her, she said "no" she was sitting with her dad. She pointed to her parents, on their backs soaking up the rays. They could not see her and did not notice my husband and me, strangers, talking to her. I was so nervous watching her, I couldn't relax and enjoy my swim. She finally was tired and climbed out of the pool at which time I felt comfortable leaving as well. I think parents get too relaxed and feel there are enough people to watch their kids so they don't need to be responsible.

Tanya - June 1, 2015 11:24 AM

I wholeheartedly agree that this is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the family. While agreeing that they should have trained staff and working equipment POOLSIDE, I also think that ultimately it's the parents/guardians fault for not WATCHING their child. My girls are 12 and 16 and can swim well and I STILL sat poolside with them as they swam. And I saw numerous kids with nobody watching them acting unruly and running around the pool. Parents just think that nothing is going to happen to THEIR kids and like the above poster I was very nervous for these other kids and kept looking around for ANYONE ELSE to be watching them but all I saw were people laying down with thier eyes closed or a bunch of empty chairs with towels over them. Bottom line. PARENTS! WATCH YOUR KIDS!!!!!!

Maggie - June 6, 2015 5:53 PM

I was on the cruse with my husband on that day. Extremely sadden for the lost of this angel. They should have had life guards on both end of the pools and two walking on the side of the pool. Why was the staff not better train in this type of medical emergency. I think basics care should have done by providing people who trained. I know as a fact it was extremely busy at the pool there should have people control such as how many are in the pool and how should be out. It was defenent they did know how to handle this matter at all. I also find out that there was machine that could start her heart again on that floor. They had to run to get it at a different floor.b the following should have it on all floor and at least both end of the ship. It could have help. Parents even with the best intention do try to keep an eye on their little ones. But the ship should have trained personnel especially if you have people with all the age group. It could not prevent all incident but it could have minimised some of it.
Rest in peace little angel.
My depless sympathy for the family and friends

Dennis - June 7, 2015 7:33 PM

I have just returned from the NCL GEM today and we heard about the loss of this young girl, last week, even before I learned about it, when we first when up to the pool area I noticed that 2 employees were acting as life guards, blowing wistles and yelling at children that were fooling around in the pool, The whole area is just to packed with people and if the parents are not closely watching their kids I shutter to think that this will happen again..........

Ranger520 - June 11, 2015 10:56 AM

This is so sad! I feel for the girls family. Prayers

James T. Laura - August 21, 2015 10:06 AM

It's unfortunate, but not necessarily unexpected that these cruise lines did not take more steps to protect children using their pools. Hopefully, these incidents will force them to make passenger safety a higher priority. Our condolences go out to the family in this difficult time.

Will M - October 20, 2015 8:05 AM

Another horrible, preventable tragedy aboard a cruise ship. I recently returned from a cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway. I was appalled at the obvious lack of concern for passenger health and safety. Pools were crowded without lifeguards, infection control measures were poor ( spotty "purell" dispensers in dining areas without enforcement of use), and a fire broke out in a silo during the cruise while we were in rough seas in the Atlantic. Luckily, the fire was contained and brought under control. I have cruised many times in the past, but will NEVER cruise on Norwegian again!

Leni - July 2, 2016 11:18 AM

Reading all those comments, I am wondering why all the people blame medical personnel, which actually did all what they could do!Do not forget that they were running from other end of the ship, they also had other patients in that moment -it certainly DOES TAKES TIME!!!
Also why all the people want to put THEIR PARENT RESPONSIBILITIES ON OTHER PEOPLE SHOULDERS???????It states clearly- NO LIFE-GUARD ON DUTY! SO! WATCH YOUR CHILDREN FOR GOD'S SAKE! When something happens to children it is always disturbing and medical personnel ARE ALSO PEOPLE! They do have feelings and emotions! And by the way they are not GODS! To make a simple move to revive a human being! If you are so pathetic ,then stay at home in the bed!!!
But if you came to the cruise ship, then watch out!
Why nobody blames lions on safari, that they attacked some idiots who went out of the cars???Because it is your own risk. So stop to blame everyone! Blame yourself, that your child died! It is your fault and negligence!

mb - December 6, 2017 11:40 AM

been on over 25 cruises.All cruise lines , its the same !!! Yes it would be great to have lifeguards , But signs are posted...No Running - they do...Adult pools always have kids..Hot tubs for adults - always see kids in pampers !!! Are the parents that busy ? Disobey whats posted. Truly a terrible thing..but can't blame the youngster..

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