Passenger Drowns in Swimming Pool on Sapphire Princess

The Shanghai Daily reports that a passenger on a cruise from Shanghai was found dead in one of the cruise ship's pools.

The newspaper says that Princess Cruises confirmed the death of the 29-year-old woman onboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship. 

"It is thought that she drowned," according to the newspaper.

The cruise reportedly left Shanghai for South Korea's Chejudo Island on Wednesday. The woman was found dead in the swimming pool on Thursday. The Princess cruise ship returned to Shanghai yesterday (Sunday).

There have been a rash of drownings, or near drownings, in the cruise industry the last two years. Most of the victims have been children. 

A 6 year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas in May this year. A 4 year old died and his 6 year old brother was injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February. A 6 year old child drowned on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year child was seriously brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.

A 42 year old passenger drowned in a hot tub on the Carnival Dream last year. 

This death will reignite the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguards around the ship's swimming pools. Only Disney employs lifeguards on its ships, and did so only after the tragedy affecting the 4 year old boy who nearly drowned on the Fantasy

So far the facts are sketchy and there is no explanation how the drowning occurred.

We reached out to Princess and received the following statement:

"We are saddened to confirm that a female adult guest aboard Sapphire Princess has died from an apparent drowning in one of the ship's swimming pools. Our thoughts and prayers are with our guest's family and we are providing support and assistance to them during this difficult time. The incident is under investigation."

Murder at Sea? CBS' 48 Hours Updates DIsappearance of George Smith From Brilliance of the Seas Nine Years Ago

Its been nine years since George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

CBS focuses on new developments in the cruise ship mystery, in a 48 Hours story entitled "Murder at Sea?"

Its introduction says: a newlywed vanishes off the cruise ship where he was honeymooning - 9 years later, "48 Hours" reports on the renewed push to find out what happened to George Smith. 

You can watch the program below: 

The George Smith Case - Nine Years Later

George Smith DisappearanceTomorrow will be the nine year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas during his honeymoon cruise. 

Mr. Smith went overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on July 5, 2005 as the ship was sailing to Turkey.

Suspicions have focused on several men who were in Mr. Smith's cabin before he went overboard, particularly after one of the men made incriminating statements. We have written many prior articles about the case which you can review here.

CBS will air an updated story of the efforts of Mr. Smith's family tomorrow night on 48 HOURS.  A preview is below. 

The Smith family has recently announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for his disappearance. 

 

If you have information about who may have killed Mr. Smith, please consider using the following contact information:

1 (844) 651 1936 

georgesmithtipline@gmail.com

Justice for George

Death of Birdie Africa on the Carnival Dream Reveals Shortcomings of Emergency Medical Treatment on the High Seas

Last year, we reported on the tragic death of 42 year old Birdie Africa, who drowned in a hot tub aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship during a vacation cruise. 

Back in 1985, Mr. Africa was a child who survived an attack by the Philadelphia Police Department which dropped explosives on the row house of the radical group MOVE. The explosives sparked a blaze that destroyed 61 homes and killed 11 people, including five children. You can read our prior article here.

We first heard of the incident on the Carnival cruise ship when a passenger on the ship notified us that a passenger was found on the bottom of a hot tub. In turn, we asked Carnival for an explanation regarding what Carnival Dreamhappened. Carnival released this statement to us:

"On Friday evening, while the Carnival Dream was en route to its homeport of Port Canaveral, Fla., the shipboard medical staff was notified that a 42-year-old male guest was experiencing a medical emergency. The medical staff responded to the location, one of the ship's Lanai areas, and administered emergency aid but, tragically, the guest passed away."

Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer provides an insight into what really happened. 

The newspaper reports that Mr. Africa's father subsequently spoke to a doctor, vacationing on the Carnival cruise ship with his wife. The doctor said that a "flustered passenger" burst into the ship and told a bartender that "someone was at the bottom of the nearby hot tub."

"The doctor ran outside and saw a crowd gathered around the tub . . . the crowd included members of the ship's staff, seemingly spellbound."

The doctor had to tell the crowd to pull Mr. Africa out of the tub.

" A nurse on the ship's medical staff arrived soon after . . . but she didn't have a defibrillator or other vital equipment.

"Even worse . . . , when the nurse obtained a defibrillator, she was hesitant to use it and allegedly asked a colleague if it was safe to use on a wet body - basic knowledge when using that device."

Mr. Africa's father told the newspaper: "It's just devastating in the fact that there was a potential that he could've lived. Especially the callousness of not only ship's personnel, but the mere aspect of society - that people would rather stand and watch than do something."

Over the past 20 years, we have heard of stories of medical delay and incompetence like this on the part of the cruise ship medical personnel and crew members responding to shipboard drownings.

A cruise ship is the last place that you want to experience a medical emergency. Moreover, most people don't realize that the cruise lines will always argue that cruise ship doctors and nurses are "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are generally not responsible. (Read story number three here). In most situations, passengers' families cannot sue the shipboard medical team even when their negligence kills the passenger.

The autopsy report on Mr. Africa indicates that he was heavily intoxicated. Cruise ships over-serving passengers alcohol is a major problem. Cruise lines make enormous and tax-free profits selling booze on the high seas.  If cruise lines like Carnival are going to sell such huge quantities to passengers, this is another reason why they should employ lifeguards around the pools to oversee passenger safety and to be trained in emergency life saving procedures when things go wrong.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe

No Lifeguards for Children on Cruise Ships? Maritime Law Encourages Cruise Lines to Act Irresponsibly

WKMG Local 6 (ClickOrlando) aired a special report last night on the issue of children drowning on cruise ships. In the last year, four children 6 years old or younger have drowned or nearly drowned in the pools of Carnival, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ships. 

In all cases, the cruise lines did not employ lifeguards.   

The news station interviewed the parents of a 6 year old child, Qwentyn Hunter, who drowned during a Carnival Cruise Ship Drowning cruise aboard the Carnival Victory.  

I believe that it's clear negligence for a cruise line not to employ a lifeguard to supervise cruise ship swimming pools. Yes, it a matter of personal responsibility of the parents to supervise their children, but its also a matter or corporate responsibility of the cruise lines to staff their pools with trained lifeguards.  A sign saying things like "swim at your own risk" or "no lifeguard on duty" is not only meaningless to a child, but it's legally insufficient to exculpate a cruise line.  

The cruise lines are able to hide behind a maritime law also known as the "Death on the High Seas Act" which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages such as pain and suffering, grief, bereavement, and mental anguish. As matters now stand, the cruise line face virtually no financial consequence when children die in cruise ships pools with no lifeguards.

The news station interviewed me during the program. Here's what I said:

"'Children are not wage-earners and because of this archaic law pertaining to cruise ships there’s no financial incentive for cruise lines to do the right thing,' said Jim Walker whose law firm deals exclusively with legal issues on cruise ships.

Walker called it the cruise industry's dirty little secret.

'The cruise lines love that law that doesn’t permit any recovery so they’re completely isolated and when you isolate a large corporation from all legal and financial consequence basically what you’re saying to them is it’s OK if children die in your pool because it doesn’t really affect your bottom line. That’s a terrible situation. That needs to change,' said Walker.

. . . Walker contends there's another troubling issue. He says no cruise employees, other than medical personnel are trained in CPR.

'If you're going to assign someone to a pool deck to hand out the towels and take drink orders, you’ve got to train them on basic CPR because CPR can save a life,' said Walker who also says he believes the cruise line industry could pass the cost of employing lifeguards on to the passengers.

'If you charge each one a dime you’re going to have enough money for a lifeguard. How about a dime for each person? Isn’t a child worth a dime?' said Walker.

Walker believes it is going to take some type of legislation really to force the cruise lines to take added safety precautions."

We have discussed this issue in prior articles:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships? (Disney now has lifeguards on its cruise ships).

Dangerous Cruise Ship Swimming Pools: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Have a thought about this issue? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

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Photo Credit: Ariza Talent & Modeling Agency via CBS News

South Korea Ferry Disaster - Nearly 300 Missing

Earlier this morning we posted an article on Facebook about a terrible maritime disaster involving a South Korean ferry carrying 462 passengers and crew members.

The ferry is the Sewol and was carrying hundreds of school children. The official count was 325 students and 14 teachers

The ferry was sailing south to the resort island of Jeju. it apparently hit something, listed and quickly sank.

There is no indication yet what caused the disaster.  

Many students on the sinking ferry sent heartbreaking text messages to their parents.

A CNN video is below:

Independence of the Seas Mooring Mishap Kills Two in St. Kitts

This morning we were contacted by passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas indicating that two dockworkers were killed when the cruise ship was leaving the port.

The passengers described the incident as occurring when the two dockworkers were in a small vessel trying to remove the last mooring lines. The Independence of the Seas' wake allegedly swamped the vessel with its azipods and threw the two men into the water. The vessel then allegedly slammed into the Celebrity Silhouette and overturned.

The two men were described as wearing life-vests, although one vest apparently became loose when the man was tossed into the water.

The passengers who we communicated with were critical that the Independence "launched rescue but not fast enough. Celebrity took 30 min after we launched rescue to respond."  They described a "lack of quick response and feeling of helplessness."

The incident occurred yesterday around 5:00 PM.  The Independence was delayed approximately 3 Independence of the Seas St Kittshours.

The incident has already been posted on social media sites.

The Times Caribbean Blog posted this on Facebook (and the photo to the right):  

"Eyewitnesses suggest that the Cruise Liner may have pulled out before the men had enough time to clear the berthing area. As a result the sea currents created by the massive cruise liner may have caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize and the men were apparently sucked below water by the current and drowned."

The news account also indicated that "the small boat was capsized when our rear azipods pushed us away from the dock. The two men where thrown overboard and never resurfaced, only one had on a life vest, the other man's life vest came off when he was thrown into the water. The capsized boat was then pushed into the back of the Silhouette. All of this viewed from my aft balcony, kinda puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful cruise. Very sad for the families of these two men.'" 

CNN iReport posted information (based on the Times Caribbean account) and a local newspaper in St. Kitts, SKNVibes, published an article as well.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer identified the two men. 

April 5 2014 UpdateLinesman expresses safety concerns following colleague's death.

If anyone has additional information or photos or video of the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Times Caribbean

Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

NCL Norwegian BreakawayNews broke tonight that two small children were pulled from a pool from NCL's Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas this morning. 

Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) reportedly was medevaced by the U.S. Coast Guard accompanied by his grandmother a nurse from the ship.   

WBTW aired a video (below) of the sad events.

This is the third event in the last nine months involving children who have drowned or were permanently injured in cruise ship swimming pools.

The first tragedy involved a young child (also 4 yeas old) who slipped under the water on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship and sustained brain damage. You can read our articles below:

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

Swimming Pool Mishap on Disney Fantasy Sends 4 Year Old to Hospital

To Disney's credit, it subsequently began to assign lifeguards to the swimming pools on its cruise ships.

The second recent event involved the death of a young child who drowned on the Carnival Victory.  Our article is below:

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

There is never an excuse when a child drowns in a swimming pool operated by an amusement park or cruise ship. Protecting children is the joint obligation of the parents and cruise line. There needs to be a combination of both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility to take care of kids around a pool.  

The Breakaway is suppose to be one of the newer and bigger cruise ships NCL offers to the public.  It is a shame that NCL decided not to assign lifeguards to the pool from where the children were eventually pulled unconscious.  What lesson did NCL learn from the Disney and Carnival tragedies?

The cruise industry will collect between $35 and $40 billion a year, tax free, but NCL won't assign lifeguards to the public pools?      

NCL apologized. However, cruising families with children deserve reasonable care exhibited by the cruise lines and lifeguards to watch over the public pools, not after-the-fact apologies.   

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Dickelbers

Transatlantic Cruise Turns Deadly for 87 Year Old Brazilian Passenger

Newspapers in Brazil are reporting on the recent death of a cruise passenger on a MSC cruise ship.

MSC PreziosaMercedes Lessi Raia, age 87, was cruising on the MSC Preziosa cruise ship when she sustained a fall on a set of stairs.  The ship was sailing around Europe on Tuesday, November 19, 2013. The accident is described as occurring when she was headed to the restaurant where dinner would be served. As the elevators were full, she decided to go down the stairs where she tripped, fell and struck her head. She sustained a hematoma and began to vomit. 12 hours later she died, on November 20th.

According to newspaper articles, Ms. Raia accomplished a lifelong dream of cruising through Europe with her two daughters. At the time of the accident, the cruise ship was returning to Brazil from Spain. She lived in Londrina in the state of Paraná, Brazil and spent her time divided between the city and the São Paulo coast.

Her son told reporters that this mother was a "very cheerful person, with an impressive vitality, did not look her age and still dreamed of the sea cruise to Europe."  She always said she wanted to live to be 100 years old.

Mercedes Lessi RaiaHer son commented on the accident and lamented the ship did not have medical facilities for appropriate and urgent care. Her family was critical of the cruise ship's response, stating that the ship did not attempt to arrange for an emergency medevac operation. 

MSC responded to the tragedy by claiming that the fall was caused by a pre-existing illness.

We have seen cruise lines defend themselves in situations like this when they claim that a fall and resulting death were the result of the passenger's health and not a problem with the cruise ship or inadequate shipboard medical facilities. Even if true, such disclosures by a cruise line violate a passenger's confidential medical rights.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

 

Photo Credit: www.jb.com.br

Carnival Conquest Crew Member Killed in New Orleans

Carnival ConquestThe Times Picayune on line newspaper reports that a Carnival Cruise Line crew member died today while the Carnival Conquest cruise ship was at port in New Orleans.

The accident occurred while the crew member was using a operating a "man lift" (also called a "cherry picker") which raises workers up the exterior of the ship.

Carnival said the crew member was performing maintenance work when he became wedged between the lift and a platform holding a lifeboat.

Carnival described the accident as follows: 

"Earlier today, while a crew member from the Carnival Conquest was elevated in a cherry picker performing maintenance work on the side of the vessel, he became wedged between the cherry picker and a platform holding one of the ship's lifeboats. The ship's medical team responded, along with local paramedics, but, tragically, the crew member died. The ship was docked in its home port of New Orleans at the time."

Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Lines via Times Picayune

If you have information, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page,

Death Aboard Cunard's Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Cruise Ship DeathThe Daily Echo reports that a Cunard crew member died during a Mediterranean cruise on the Queen Victoria cruise ship.

The newspaper quotes a Cunard spokesman saying: “We can confirm the very sad news that one of our crew members on Queen Victoria died last night. We are providing support to his family back home and also to his friends and crewmates on board.

The luxury cruise ship is sailing from Piraeus to Majorca. 

Cunard has not identified the man's name, nationality, age, job position or cause of death.

If you have information about what happened, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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Carnival Hot Tub Death Involved Survivor of 1985 Philadelphia MOVE Bombing

Michael Moses Ward /  Birdie AfricaLast week we reported on the death of a passenger aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship on September 20, 2013. 

The incident involved a man who was found unconscious under the water in a hot tub on the cruise ship. 

Several news outlets are reporting today that the man was 41 year-old Michael Moses Ward, also known as "Birdie Africa," who at age 13 was the only child who survived the bombing of the radical group MOVE in 1985. 

As explained in Philly.com, back in 1985 there was an armed confrontation between the city police and MOVE members in West Philadelphia. Police dropped explosives on the group's row house, which sparked a blaze that city officials allowed to burn. The fire destroyed 61 homes, although the city finally tried to extinguish the blaze with water canons from fire trucks. The fire killed 11 people, including five children. 

Newsworks comments that the one redeeming part of the story was the rescue of a 13-year-old "Birdie Africa" who emerged out of one of the flaming row houses and was plucked from waist-deep water, from the fire trucks, by a police officer.

Newsworks said that his father, Andino Ward, gave his son the middle name "Moses" because he was saved from the water.

Ironically and sadly, Michael Moses Ward died in the water of a hot tub during a cruise on a Carnival fun ship 28 years later.  

 

Photo Credit:  Credit H. Rumph Jr. / AP / via wdiy.org

Death Aboard the Dream

Carnival Dream Cruise ShipSeveral cruise passengers have stated that a passenger died aboard the Carnival Dream on September 20 2013.

Cruise passengers indicate that they got into one of the hot tubs on the cruise ship Friday evening and realized that another passenger, a man, was under the water.  The man reportedly was removed from the tub, and the medical staff was notified and arrived at the scene. They tried to resuscitate the man for a period of time but were unsuccessful in doing so. The incident apparently happened around 7:45 P.M. Friday evening.

A passenger on the ship contacted us and inquired whether we have other information about this incident.  We contacted Carnival and informed them of what we leaned and sought a comment from the cruise line.

Today at noon, Carnival provided the following statement:

"September 22, 2013 - 12 noon

On Friday evening, while the Carnival Dream was en route to its homeport of Port Canaveral, Fla., the shipboard medical staff was notified that a 42-year-old male guest was experiencing a medical emergency. The medical staff responded to the location, one of the ship's Lanai areas, and administered emergency aid but, tragically, the guest passed away.

Carnival's CARE Team is providing assistance and support to the guest's family.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the guest's family and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.

Carnival Dream operates seven-day cruises from Port Canaveral."

The last passenger death aboard the Dream occurred two months ago: Questions Swirl Around Death of Passenger Aboard Carnival Dream Cruise Ship.

In May of last year, we reported on the death of another passenger from the Carnival Dream who allegedly received bad medical care on the cruise ship: Carnival Dream Turns Into Deadly Nightmare

September 25 2013 Update: Carnival Hot Tub Death Involved Survivor of 1985 Philadelphia MOVE Bombing

 

Photo Source: Wikipedia / Kuloskulos

Two Dead While Disassembling "Love Boat" in Turkey

Love Boat DeathA newspaper reports that police in Turkey are investigating the death of two shipyard workers who inhaled toxic fumes from a plumbing fixture yesterday as they were disassembling the MS Pacific cruise ship which had became famous as the "Love Boat" in the 1970's television series.

“The Love Boat” was towed from Genoa to the seaside town of Aliağa in Turkey last week to be stripped and dismantled by Izmir Ship Recycling Company which bought the 42-year-old ship for 2.5 million euros.

The newspaper states that ten workers who entered the engine room were poisoned by fumes released from a plumbing fixture’s exhaust pipe while they were draining water in the engine room. 

The affected workers were taken to nearby hospitals, but two of them, Doğan Balcı, age 37, and Davut Özdemir, age 40, died. 

The poisoning was the second such incident to occur on the ship. Another worker reportedly had been sickened on the first day of dismantling the ship. 

Questions Swirl Around Death of Passenger Aboard Carnival Dream Cruise Ship

Several newspapers in St. Maarten report on the death of a passenger aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship yesterday shortly after the ship left St. Thomas.

One newspaper states that the captain of the Carnival cruise ship learned "shortly after leaving the port of Saint Thomas on Tuesday July 16th," heading to Saint Maarten, he received a report a female U.S. citizen, age 40, allegedly committed suicide. The cruise ship alleges that the passenger "took her own life by hanging herself." The newspaper states that the investigation "will be done by U.S. authorities once the ships docks at the nearest U.S. port."

Carnival Dream Cruise Ship The newspapers mention the woman by name and state prominently that she killed herself.

Irrespective of what happened, it is disturbing to hear that a cruise line has determined the official cause of death of a passenger in such a summary manner. That's the responsibility of highly educated, trained and experienced medical examiners. Not cruise ship employees.

Why do the cruise lines think they can act like police officers and coroners and determine the cause of death?  Read:  "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea"

And why did the Carnival cruise ship captain, who learned of the death of a guest "shortly after leaving St. Thomas," sail on to the next port?  

Here's what some of the local residents in St. Marteen are saying:

 ". . . Sxm has a bad reputation when it comes to murders that looks like suicide. They always take the easy way out. what a thing if it turned out to be death by poisoning or strangulation."

"The captain of the ship stated that shortly after leaving the port of Saint Thomas." Why didn't the captain return to St. Thomas? Apparently the mighty dollar reigns supreme & the inherently trivial cruise schedule is sacrosanct. I suspect the captain of this particular vessel could be investigated for (mildly) improper conduct under international maritime law." 

 

Photo Credit:  Carnival dream - Wikipedia / Kuloskulos

27 Year Old MSC Crew Member Dies Aboard Preziosa Cruise Ship

Maria La Camera - MSC CruisesNewspapers in Italy are reporting that a 27 year old crew member died on July 14th on the MSC Preziosa.

Maria La Camera. known as "Titti" to her friends, worked aboard the MSC cruise ship as a hostess. She was found dying in her cabin, according to the newspaper Napoli Today.

Her co-employees made ​​the discovery, after they went to her cabin when she did not show up for her shift. The cruise ship docked the following day at the port of Naples where local police inspected the cabin and will review video cameras to determine whether anyone entered the cabin. They will also be investigating whether she suffered from any personal problems, according to the newspapers.

The initial medical examination on board the ship suggested that the young woman may have died due to an aneurysm, which is unusual in a young woman. Her body will undergo an autopsy in Italy. Her family and friends described her as a healthy woman who did not use drugs, was of a cheerful disposition and was very good at her job.

 

Photo Credit: Crew Center

Death Aboard the Magic: Carnival Passenger Falls From Balcony

Carnival Magic Cruise ShipNews stations in Houston are reporting that a 39 year old man fell from a balcony during a cruise on the Carnival Magic cruise ship.

The accident happened Tuesday morning while the cruise ship was sailing in the Gulf of Mexico heading toward Mahogany Bay in Roatan. The cruise line states that the passenger was sitting on his cabin balcony railing when he fell onto an open deck area three decks below. He died.

The newspaper accounts do not disclose the time of the incident or whether alcohol was involved.

The Magic is on a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean. It left out of Galveston last Sunday.

July 5 2013 Update: A news station has identified the man who died during the cruise.

 

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Loyal to Royal? Inquest to be Held into Legionella Death of Former Royal Caribbean Captain

BBC published an article today about a story we have covered over the last three years.

The story involves a former Royal Caribbean captain who died due to sickness contracted while cruising with the same cruise line he and his wife had worked for.

Tore and Sue Myhra "met and fell in love" on board a Royal Caribbean ship in the 1980s.

Tore Myhra - LegionellaBut in 2009, the couple were on a Royal Caribbean cruise as passengers aboard the Liberty of the Seas when Captain Myhra became ill and four days later died of Legionella in a Miami hospital.

An inquest into the death will be held next month in the U.K. 

Mrs Myhra said her husband's case was "ironic" in that he had not been afforded the same consideration he had shown others when he was working.

In 1998, he sailed a Royal Caribbean cruise ship into a Caribbean port  at night so a sick passenger could receive emergency medical treatment. But Royal Caribbean kept the ill former captain on the cruise ship when he was dying.

Royal Caribbean did not treat his widow, a former long term purser on several Royal Caribbean cruise ships, or her daughter any better. 

You can read our article about this sad and disturbing case here. It should give new meaning to "Loyal to Royal."

Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra

Death on NCL's Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Jade Cruise Ship Katakolon GreeceAccording to a news account in Greece, a 25 year old Filipino crew member aboard the Norwegian Jade died when the cruise ship was in Katakolo, Greece.

In addition to the skimpy information contained in the newspaper, we learned that the incident occurred early this morning when cruise passengers were preparing to disembark for sightseeing ashore (including visiting the ruins of Olympia).

A mooring line snapped while the crew member was standing on a mooring deck platform (at the level of deck 7). The crew member was violently struck by the recoiling rope. He was knocked overboard and into the water at the port.  According to the news account, divers took several hours to retrieve the dead man's body in the murky water. 

The crew member was not fitted with either a harness or a life vest and he was not wearing a hard hat. (Some people say that his hard hat was subsequently found floating in the water).

This afternoon, the Norwegian Jade (previously named the Pride of Hawaii) continued on to its next port of call in Piraeus.  The Jade is flagged in the Bahamas.  It appears that the ship sailed without a representative of the Bahamas Maritime Authority conducting an inspection of the rope or analyzing the NCL Norwegian Jadeaccident and taking statements from the crew and witnesses.  The ship is now continuing to sail to Pireus this evening.   

Cruise lines like NCL have worked hard to strip crew members of their rights.  Crew members from the Philippines, in particular, are limited under the Philippines Overseas Employment Agreement (POEA) to very small death benefits even in cases like this where the cruise line failed to enforce basic safety procedures.  

You can read our article about the POEA here. NCL took the lead in enforcing unfair arbitration clauses which deprive seafarers of their rights under maritime law.

Without significant financial consequence to the cruise line in cases like this, there is no incentive to improve safety of the ship's hard working crew. 

If you have information about this fatality, please leave a comment below.     

Photo credits: Norwegian Jade - janiahola.fi; web cam - NCL; scene of accident - ekathimerini.com

NCL Norwegian Jade Death Greece

Join the discussion of this case on our Facebook page.

Passenger From Carnival Elation Drowns in Cozumel

A newspaper in Jacksonville reports that a local resident sailing on a Carnival cruise died earlier this week during a stop in Cozumel Mexico.   Andrew Wooten, age 50, was reportedly swept away by an undercurrent and drowned. 

Mr. Wooten was the president of Safety Awareness Firearms Education, a firm that conducts training. He was providing continuing education courses on the cruise. 

According to the newspaper, Wooten apparently drowned during an  excursion after sailing to Mexico on the Carnival Elation cruise ship. 

New York Teenager Dies on Carnival Miracle Cruise Ship

This morning the Carnival Miracle returned to New York with the body of an 18 year old high school student aboard.

The young man, scheduled to graduate from Saratoga Springs High School this spring, reportedly died of alcohol poisoning last night. He has been described as a "polite young man" in a local newspaper and as a "great, gentle kid" by extended family members on an on line cruise community website Cruise Critic.

18 year old kids are not suppose to die on cruises or during school breaks.

There will be debate where the alcohol came from and who is responsible for the young man's death.

Carnival Miracle Cruise Ship One thing is certain. There's way too much emphasis on booze in the Carnival cruise experience. It's too easy for teenagers to gain access to alcohol on cruise ships. Its particularly easy when bartenders, working for tips, serve too many drinks without any regard to where the drinks eventually end up.  

In 1994, the LA Times published an article "Boy's Death Raises Issues of Drinking On Cruises." A 14 year old boy aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas consumed so much rum and tequila that he literally drank himself to death. The cruise line corporate communications manager at the time responded to the minor's death cavalierly saying "the best advice that you can give is that a cruise is a resort vacation. It's not a baby-sitting service."

So should parents watch over their teenagers like they zealously do at home?  That's not what the cruise lines like Carnival tell you to do.  

If you click on the "Cruise Booze" category to the left you'll see dozens of articles about excessive alcohol sales on cruises. The more booze on cruises, the greater the risk of crimes and death. As a parent of an 18 year-old-about-to-graduate, I find it hard to even think for a second of going on a cruise and returning without my son alive. 

Many years ago, my wife and I took a vacation to Disney World with our two boys. While my wife was watching our kids in the pool, I ordered a beer for myself and a wine for my wife.  The Disney bartender said he could sell only one drink per adult.  So I had to ask my wife to come buy her own drink.  I thought what a pain this was, but it was a responsible policy designed to keep alcohol away from underage drinkers.

There is nothing remotely resembling such a policy on cruise ships. Pushing alcohol is the business model of the cruise industry.

If this death becomes a story covered by the major press, you will see attacks on the parents for not supervising their child.  But most parents have no idea just how out-of-control cruise ships like Carnival are. Carnival earns many hundreds of millions of dollars aggressively pushing the booze. There are few security guards, There are no real safeguards like I experienced at the Magic Kingdom.  

Most parents spend their lives watching their kids like a hawk, but once on a cruise they get caught up in the fantasy environment marketed and sold by the "'fun ships."  They let their guard down. The result is tragedies like this while the cruise line makes millions of dollars selling booze.    

February 27 2013 Update: Here's the statement from Carnival we received this morning:

"We can confirm that an 18-year-old male guest passed away in his cabin at approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26 during an eight-day voyage of the Carnival Miracle which ended later that morning in New York. The cause of death has not been determined. With regard to speculation that he may have died from alcohol poisoning, we can confirm that, based on the preliminary investigation, there is no indication he was served any alcohol by shipboard personnel. Following his death, the cruise line contacted the FBI as per standard practice in this type of occurrence. FBI representatives boarded the ship on Tuesday morning to conduct an investigation. No foul play is suspected. We extend our deepest sympathies to young man's family and loved ones during this very difficult time."  
 

CLIA Safety Proposal Ignored: Lifeboat Plunges 60 Feet, 5 Dead

Thomson Majesty Lifeboat AccidentFollowing the Costa Concordia disaster last year, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) announced 10 new safety proposals that all of the cruise lines were suppose to follow.

One proposal was that cruise lines would no longer load crew members in the lifeboats during safety drills. Instead, cruise lines were suppose to lower the lifeboats into the water first, load the crew members in next, and then practice motoring the lifeboat around. The proposal envisions only a few crew aboard during the lowering of the lifeboat, and they must be essential to the operation. 

Today we learn that at least 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship, apparently in violation of the new CLIA safety proposal, when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew are dead. 3 are injured. 

The cruise ship was docked at the pier of Santa Cruz port in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Thomson Cruises is owned by the large German travel company TUI. The cruise ship is operated by Louis Cruises.

A local newspaper says that the nationality of the dead victims are three Indonesians, a Ghanian and a Filipino. The injured involve two Greek crew members in serious condition and a Filipino in what is being described as in less serious condition.   

There is a saying that most lifeboats drills injure or kill more crew than save lives. Lifeboats can fall suddenly due to operator error or suffer malfunctions of the moving parts or failure of the cables and hardware. The accident appears to have happened while the lifeboat was being raised. No one needs to be aboard the lifeboat when it is raised. A cable snapped on one side. A photograph on our Facebook page shows a frayed cable.  

You can see a dramatic lifeboat accident in a video here. Although it did not involve a cruise ship, you can see how things can go terribly wrong.

It's a shame that the lifeboat had crew members aboard while it was being lowered and raised in violation of the CLIA safety proposals. Why have 8 crewmembers in the boat while it is being raised anyway? The safety proposals are just that - proposals. It seems that at the end of the day, the cruise lines do whatever they want to do. 

Please leave a comment below or discuss this accident on our Facebook page

February 11 2013 Update: Cruise Critic has an interesting article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines?  It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills:

"Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers' union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that's not possible then there should be a maximum of two people.

"Lifeboats are meant to go one way -- and that's down -- I don't know why there were eight people onboard when they were winching it back up."

Photo credit: AP via Huffington Post.  Video credit: BBC News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portugese Cruise Passenger From MSC Divina Found Dead

MSC Divina Cruise ShipA reader of Cruise Law news has alerted me to another person going overboard from a cruise ship.

A newspaper in Italy states that a Portuguese man, 46 years old, was found dead off of the coast of Corsica. He was sailing as a passenger on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean sea when he went overboard for reasons not disclosed.

The Expresso XL newspaper reports that "the victim has been formally identified as a Portuguese man of 46 years who had disappeared from the vessel MSC Divina . . . "

The passenger had been reported missing from the MSC cruise ship at 1:00 PM today. The weather was calm.

Helicopters and a jet searched for the unidentified man after he was reported missing.  An investigation is being conducted into the case by shoreside maritime officials in France.

The French maritime authorities released the following statement (translated):

"This Saturday, February 9 shortly before noon, the body of a lifeless man spotted ten miles southwest of Bonifacio by a customs plane. He had taken part in the device search to try to find a passenger MSC Divina missing since 1am in the area.

Hoisted by the helicopter PUMA Solenzara, the victim has been formally identified as a Portuguese man of 46 years who had disappeared from the ship.

An investigation will be launched to determine the exact circumstances of his death."

Anyone with information please leave a comment below. 

 

Photo credit MSC Divina - Wikimedia Commons / Mllturro

Australian Police Investigate Death of 24 Year Old Woman on Cruise Ship

Regent Seven Seas - Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship Death A number of newspapers in Australia are reporting that police in the Northern Territory of Australia are investigating the death of a 24-year-old woman aboard a cruise ship which docked in Darwin today.

Commander Richard Bryson of the Crime and Specialist Support Command said the woman's body was found in her cabin. "The woman was a staff member on a cruise ship which is currently moored in Darwin Harbour," he said.

"A crime scene was established as the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident continue."

The newspaper articles state that the police refuse to release further information, such as even the name of the cruise ship.

Ship tracking services indicate that the Seven Seas Voyager operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) is in Darwin today. The Seven Seas Voyager has a crew of 447 serving some 700 passengers.

Needless to say, the death of a young woman is unusual. 

The death of this young woman comes at a time when members of the International Cruise Victims Regent Seven Seas - Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship Death (ICV) organization are petitioning the government of Australia for legislation to protect passengers and crew members who sail into Australian ports. ICV Australia Director Mark Brimble lost his wife on a cruise after she was given a date rape drug. 

An on-line cruise community says that the crew member in question was the lead female singer on the cruise ship, although this has not been confirmed. 

February 3 2012 Update:

A news station in Australia has video showing a Regent Seven Seas cruise ship as the location of the incident. 

The young woman was a talented performer for Jean Ann Ryan Productions which employ dancers and singers on cruise ships.

She apparently worked aboard the Seven Seas Voyager for a relatively short period of time after performing on other Regent cruise ships like the Navigator and Mariner.

Rest in Peace Jackie Kastrinelis.

February 4 2013 Update:

A newspaper in Australia quotes police saying that they do not believe that a crime occurred.  A coroner will prepare a report.   

We received information that the crew member had an accident the preceding day during a rehearsal where she hit her head and had been given medicine by the ship doctor. 

A news station in Australia has a video tribute to Ms. Kastrinelis below.

Jackie Kastrinelis

 

Manslaughter Investigation Underway Following Death of Costa Serena Crew Member

Chief Prosecutor Michele DiLecceEarlier this week, we reported on the death of a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena cruise ship. He died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines.

Today we learn that a criminal prosecutor in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is headquartered and where the cruise ship is flagged, has opened a criminal investigation into the incident.  An Italian newspaper reports that chief prosecutor Michele DiLecce has initiated an investigation under the theory that the death involved a case of involuntary manslaughter.   

The cruise ship was sailing between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Angra Ries, Brazil at the time of the crew member's death.

Criminal investigations of crew member deaths are unusual. It appears that there must be an indication of egregious conduct by the cruise line to prompt a criminal prosecutor to initiate such an investigation.

Are there any crew members out there with information to share?  

 

Photo credit: ilsecoloxix.it

Crew Member Dies in Ventilation Shaft on Costa Serena

Costa Serena Cruise Ship Crew Member DeathA reader of Cruise Law News in Italy has notified us of the death this week of a crew member aboard the Costa Serena cruise ship.

The incident involved a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena.  He reportedly died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines, apparently while working on the maintenance of fan grids.

A newspaper in Genoa where Costa is headquartered contains a short account of the crew member's death. The accident was revealed today although it occurred last Thursday, while the cruise ship was off the coast of Argentina.  

Other crew members reported Mr. Fauzi's "disappearance," following which the ship's chief engineer searched and located the crew member's lifeless body in the vertical ventilation shaft. It is less than clear how long it took before Mr. Fauzi's body was located.

The Costa Serena is a Concordia-class cruise ship for Carnival-owned Costa Crociere. The name Serena was intended to symbolize harmony and serenity.  The cruise ship has been the cruise line's flagship since 2007.

 

Photo credit of Costa Serena: ilsecoloxix.it 

Baseball Legend Earl Weaver Dies Aboard Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Ship

Earl Weaver DeathSad news today in the world of professional baseball with word that legendary baseball manager Earl Weaver died at age 82.

Mr. Weaver was a one-of-a-kind manager who led the Baltimore Orioles to success, winning several American League pennants and the 1970's World Series while leading the league in ejections. Although short in stature, Weaver was viewed as a huge figure in professional sports for his strategy and leadership and his fiery confrontations with baseball umpires. 

News accounts indicate that he died after suffering an apparent heart attack on a Celebrity cruise ship, the Silhouette. There is not yet a clear indication of exactly how he died other than he reportedly collapsed in his cabin after dinner. He was sailing aboard the Celebrity cruise ship as part of a baseball theme cruise.

Don't let the recent videos being shown today of a docile, grey haired grandfather fool you.  

Earl Weaver was a force of nature.  

Just watch the video below if you want to gain an insight into his passion and competitive nature. Please overlook the curse words, that's not the point.  This is the manager who you want on your side, no doubt.  

And yes he made it into the Hall of Fame.

Happy eternal cruising Earl Weaver.

 

Video credit: Via David Brown / Yahoo Sports / YouTube vlud

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Passenger Dies on Snorkeling Excursion in Dominica

Vision of the Seas Several newspapers are reporting that a cruise ship passenger died during a snorkeling excursion while visiting the Caribbean island of Dominica.

The incident involves a cruise passenger from Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship. The local police say that  Jim Caves of Riverside, California, was aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship, which docked today in Dominica. The news accounts suggest that Mr. Caves complained about feeling sick while snorkeling at a nearby beach with his wife and other family members. He was later pronounced dead.  There is not explanation offered regarding exactly what happened. 

It is currently unknown whether the excursion was booked independently or through the cruise line.

Snorkeling deaths in the Caribbean during cruises are not uncommon.  You can read about recent cases in our articles here and here.  

December 20. 2012 Update: Cruise Critic states that the passenger was on the "Champagne Snorkeling" ship-sponsored excursion, Cynthia Martinez, director of global corporate communications for Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, told Cruise Critic, "when he began to experience breathing difficulties while snorkeling. He was transported to a local area hospital where sadly he passed away."

Passenger Falls to His Death on MSC Fantasia Cruise Ship

Theobald Perelo - Passenger - MSC Fantasia Cruise Ship DeathA number of sources are reporting on the death of a Brazilian man who fell from an upper balcony on the MSC Fantasia cruise ship today.

Some are saying that he fell from the eight or ninth deck to the fifth deck, apparently from an interior balcony.

The cruise ship was sailing between Santos and Rio de Janeiro, carrying 3780 passengers on a three-night cruise. The passenger is identified as Theobald Perelo. One newspaper in Brazil, A Tribuna, referred to him as the owner of one of the largest wholesale distributors in the region and a figure well known and respected in Ilheus, Bahia.

Another source said that the businessman was awarded a cruise and was traveling in the company of his son in law and some employees of the company (Distributor Perelo). The wife remained in Ilheus during the cruise.

There is a great deal of speculation about what happened, with reference to a possible heart attack which seems strange. How do you have a heart attack and then fall over a railing?  

Anyone with information please leave a comment below.

December 7 2012: we received this information from someone on the cruise ship:  

The guy fell from the balcony of his cabin from the ninth deck to the seventh deck onto to his head . . . he was 52 and had possible heart attack when he fell because he went straight down like a stone. He had no signs of alcohol in the blood. The ship was cruising from Santos to Ilhabela and was about 1:00 am when it happened. The police came today on board but they just took the body and left in less than an hour. The passenger was shearing the cabin with his son in law who was not present at that time. The Brazilians on board are saying that the police is corrupt big time and the captain got rid of them very fast.

 

Photo Credit:  Blog do Gusmao

Woman Dies When Florida Dive Boat Capsizes

A Thanksgiving Day diving trip in South Florida turned deadly when a 45-foot catamaran, the Coral Princess, flipped over and dumped nearly two dozen people into the water as the vessel was returning to shore. 

One person, Nina Poppelsdorf, age 54, from New Mexico, drowned after she was caught under the hull of the capsized water craft. 

According to ABC News, witnesses said the Coral Princess was approaching the Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach when a 8 to 10 feet high wave flipped the boat. 

The Coral Princess is a catamaran owned by South Florida Diving Headquarters in Pompano Beach, Florida.

An ABC News video of the incident is below:

  

 

 

Costa Coffin Cruise Ships

Lyndsey O'Brien - Costa Coffin Cruise ShipsIn March of 2006 I attended the second of seven cruise ship hearings in Washington D.C. regarding cruise ship crimes and missing passengers.

The most compelling cruise story featured at the hearing was the case of Lynsey O'Brien, a fifteen year old Irish girl traveling with her family aboard the Costa Magica cruise ship. During the cruise, the Costa bartenders served 15-year-old Lyndsey 10 drinks. A newspaper in Ireland wrote "in a period of 45 minutes his 15-year-old daughter was served 10 drinks in a bar on the cruise ship, two Sex on the Beach, four Woo Woos, two vodka and mixers, a shot of vodka and liqueurs."

Lyndsey went overboard while trying to vomit over the railing. She has never been found. Her mom and dad, two sisters and brother returned to Ireland from the Costa cruise without their sister. 

Lynsey's father Paul O'Brien just published a book a week ago about the horrendous experience of losing a child during what should be a holiday cruise and then ending up in a lawsuit against the cruise line which killed your daughter.

Mr. O'Brien's book is called Lynsey's Law Costa Coffin Cruise Ships & Obama.  He has a facebook page about his experience as well. 

July 9 2012 Update:  A newspaper in Ireland reports today on the death of Lynsey's father, Paul O'Brien at age 49.

Carnival Forgets the Costa Concordia Dead, and Celebrates a NBA Championship Basketball Team

It's approaching six months since the death of ill fated Costa Concordia.  But it seems like yesterday that the renegade Costa captain crashed the $500 million cruise ship ingloriously into the granite underwater rocks surrounding the little island of Giglio, terrorizing over four thousand passengers and crew and killing innocent souls who were simply trying to enjoy a vacation cruise.   

But the news today is not about the Concordia disaster. Cruise bookings are up for Costa, the travel experts tell us. The reports of the demise of the Costa brand predicted earlier this year, are old and now disregarded. Costa has brought a brand new cruise ship online with great fanfare. Things are looking up for the cruise lines, the cruise lines tell us.

Carnival Cruise Line - Costa Concordia Disaster - Micky Arison The last thing on the mind of CEO Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of Costa, is the death, doom and gloom associated with the Concordia disaster.  Arison is a happy camper. He just celebrated his multi-million dollar Miami Heat basketball team winning another NBA championship.

The champagne is still flowing.

Fat cat cruise CEO's like Arison don't lose sleep over disasters. OK, 32 dead. It could have been worse.  Shit happens.  A 500 million dollar cruise line lying on its side in the water. Thank Poseidon, God of the Sea, that we are fully insured for the hull and lost revenues. I'm still worth billions. Let's move on. Is the Heat going to win the championship?  

That's how billionaire Arison thinks.  He misses no sleep worrying about dead customers.  

But there are people who haven't forgotten the terror of January 13th.  There are passengers and crew members who can't sleep because of the terror of that night.  There are parents, spouses and children who grieve their dead children, soul mates and parents.         

What do the families of the Concordia victims think watching the spectacle of Arison on TV laughing and holding his NBA championship trophy over his head?  

Do the the families of the dead awake in the middle of the night triggered by the thought that those responsible for killing their family members care not an iota for their loves ones' suffering while holding NBA trophies and drinking champagne? 

Cruise Passenger Drowns in Bahamas

Yesterday a U.S. cruise passenger drown in Grand Bahama during a cruise visit. The Eleutheran News reports that the passenger was age 61 and was from Pennsylvania. She was snorkeling with a family member and other cruise guests. The name of the cruise line and cruise ship was not released. 

The George Smith Cruise Disappearance Case Returns to Nancy Grace

The case of missing cruise honeymooner George Smith returned to cable news tonight.  Nancy Grace hosted a one hour show filled with all types of legal and psychological "experts" who knew nothing about what happened on the ill fated cruise but nonetheless speculated wildly about what is now a seven year old case.   I'm not a Nancy Grace fan, but let's hope the renewed media attention leads to an arrest and closure for the families involved.

Last summer we wrote a series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance:Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

 

 

Press Release: New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith

Greenwich Magazine - Mystery at Seas - Murder of George Smith  A publishing company in Connecticut issued a press release today indicating that there is additional evidence to support the conclusion that George Smith was murdered during his honeymoon cruise in July of 2005. 

Greenwich Magazine indicates that its June edition will contain "new information released for the first time" which will provide additional proof that "could lead to the criminal indictment of suspects in one of the biggest unsolved murder cases in Greenwich, Connecticut history." 

The press release also mentions an "incriminating videotape." 

The story is called Mystery at Sea, and was investigated and written by Timothy Dumas.  Mr. Dumas previously authored the book Greentown, Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's Wealthiest Community, which chronicles the murder of Martha Moxley.

The press release states that Mr. Dumas conducted extensive interviews and waded through depositions, cruise ship files, incident reports and witness statements. It appears that he has been working closely with the Connecticut lawyers representing Mr. Smith's parents and sister.  

Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

I'm looking forward to reading the article at the end of this month.

Let's hope that the new information leads to an arrest.

 

Credit:  Greenwich Magazine

Carnival Dream Turns Into Deadly Nightmare

Courthouse News reports today on a disturbing story regarding a cruise passenger's death due to what is alleged to be delayed and inadequate shipboard medical care.

The story involves John and Victoria Showers who sailed from Miami on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Dream.

After leaving Miami, Ms. Showers complained of constipation. She went ashore in Cozumel, the following day, where she purchased laxatives that didn't help her. The article states that Ms. Showers experienced severe abdominal pain while back on the cruise ship. The following morning, Mr. Showers called the ship's medical personnel, who eventually sent a wheelchair to their cabin and took Ms. Showers to the infirmary.

Carnival Dream Cruise Ship - Medical Malpractice But instead of seeing a ship doctor, Ms. Showers was seen by who appears to be a nurse who did not take a history, or take her vital signs, or examine her according to Mr. Showers.  All the cruise employee did, according to the article, was to give Ms. Showers two fleet enemas.

When the ship doctor finally saw Ms. Showers later in the afternoon, he diagnosed a bowel obstruction after examining her.  The ship doctor recommended she she be seen at a medical center in Belize where crew members are treated.

Once Ms. Showers was ashore in Belize City, the doctors there stated that they could not provide emergency treatment for her. Mr. Showers had to arrange for emergency medical evacuation of his wife to Miami.

The doctors in Miami found that fecal matter had entered Ms. Showers abdominal cavity, causing an infection and other severe complications. Following hospitalization from November 4th and many surgeries later, Ms. Showers died on December 22nd.

We have written many articles about bad medical care on cruise ships and in the Caribbean, and the difficulties holding cruise lines responsible for medical malpractice.  Read: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

Under-Staffed Diving Excursion Leads to Death of 17 Year Old Carnival Cruise Passenger in Grand Turk

The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police website states that a 17 year old U.S. tourist was pulled from the waters off Grand Turk in what the police call a diving accident on April 4, 2012.  

Professor Ross Klein's website and members of Cruise Critic state that the incident involved a teenage from the Carnival Pride cruise ship who was on a Carnival sanctioned excursion with Oasis Divers, which advertises:

"Our professional and courteous staff makes sure your experience is unforgettable. Many of our guides have been diving these waters for years and have an astounding knowledge of the reef and dive sites. Our divemasters take care of all the details to ensure your time with Oasis Divers is everything you’ve dreamed of in a dive shop. From setting up your equipment each day to detailed dive site descriptions and briefings, Oasis Divers prides itself on our fantastic team. We dive in small groups and guarantee personalized service from your divemaster." 

According to Cruise Critic, the young man went into the water in a group of 16 divers with only 2 instructors in the water.  If the Cruise Critic information is correct, a ratio of 8 divers to 1 instructor is grossly insufficient and probably constitutes criminal malfeasance - particularly if there are new or inexperienced divers.

The young cruise passenger was treated at a local hospital and then flown to the U.S. where he died at a hospital.

The police report also mentions two recent snorkeling deaths on the island, including a 80 year old tourist and and a 62 year old described as a cruise passenger.

A scuba message board discusses these cases and suggests that Carnival and Holland America Cruise Lines suspended their contracts with the diving excursion company. 

Last week we reported on a Celebrity cruise passenger from the Equinox who died during a diving excursion in Cozumel.

Remembering Titanic

As we all know, 100 years ago today the Titanic struck an iceberg.  By the following morning over 1,500 people were dead.

The horror of the event, it seems to me, has largely faded by the passing of time.  Does anyone really stop and reflect on the fear and suffering experienced by the doomed passengers and crew?  Or the sadness of the families who lost loved ones in the disaster?

When someone says Titanic, most people probably think of the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  Most people would rather think of a love scene between Jack & Rose than 1,500 soon-Costa Concordia - Giglio Italyto-be-dead people gasping for air in dark, deep and icy waters.   

At this very moment there are several cruise ships, on Titanic memorial cruises, heading to the spot where the cruise ship sank. There are many accounts of smiling passengers in period costumes similar to what the first class passengers were wearing in 1912, with women in corsets and men in top hats.  Lots of excited passengers enjoying their cruises; fine meals, cocktails, dancing, and laughter.

This seems rather macabre to me. When they find themselves at the watery grave tonight where 1,500 souls perished, will they be remembering the real event or celebrating the Titanic movie, now in 3-D?

Carol Burnett said "death plus time equals comedy."  And Angela Carter said "comedy is tragedy which happens to others."  Both thoughts, I suppose, are true.  One of my Dad's favorite saying when things went wrong was "other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"  Yes, its funny as long as it's not your family and it happened long ago.

But the Titanic is not the last cruise ship where someone died.  Over the past 100 years, there have been hundreds of maritime incidents which have accounted for the deaths of thousands of passengers and crew members.  Many fires, collisions, and sinkings - not to mention over-boards, violence and crimes - have occurred during cruises since the Titanic sank. 

When I think of the Titanic, my mind goes to the tragedies suffered by hundreds of people whose have lost loved ones during cruises in the last decade or so.

In 1998, Amy Bradley disappeared during a Royal Caribbean cruise.  In 2004, Merrian Carver disappeared during a Celebrity cruise and Ashley Barnett died under mysterious circumstances on a Carnival cruise ship.  In 2005, George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise.  In 2006 Richard Liffridge died in a fire on a Princess cruise. And last year, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder.  In the last 10 years, there have been over 170 people who have disappeared from cruise ships.  The families of the missing and dead are living through their own Titanic horror every day.  

This morning I clicked on the web cam on Giglio Porto, showing the Costa Concordia on its side, under dark angry clouds. There is nothing funny about this latest disaster.  A 100 years from now, will there be memorial cruises to Giglio? Will the cruise passengers be dancing and laughing then? 

Cruise Ships: The Deadliest Form of Public Transportation?

NCL Norway Cruise Ship ExplosionSince the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise lines' PR departments have been working overtime trying to convince the public that cruising is safe. I have mentioned the cruise industry's talking points in a prior article "Six Lies the Cruise Lines Will Tell You after the Costa Concordia Crash."

One of the bigger cruise whoppers is the notion that the cruise industry has the best safety record compared with other forms of passenger transportation.  Just last week, the cruise lines' trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issued a press release stating that cruise ships deaths are "extremely rare."  The press release quotes CLIA President Christine Duffy, who credibility was recently called into question at a U.S. Senate hearing on cruise ship safety.  

Ms. Duffy cites a report by a consulting firm, GP Wild International, Inc., which represents that in the 10 years before the Concordia disaster, there were 28 deaths on cruise ships out of 223 million passengers and crew who sailed in the past decade. 

GP Wild states that "average fatalities between 2006 and 2011 are 0.16 per one million passengers . . . this compares with 0.3 per one million passengers for the airline industry."  GP Wild does not cite a reference for these statistics, but let's assume that they are true.

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship - Cruise FireSo is the cruise industry saying that you are twice as likely to die on an airplane than a cruise ship? 

Let's take a look at this claim.  Ms. Duffy characterizes GP Wild as "an independent source of analysis and data on the cruise industry."

That's hardly true.   GP Wild is not "independent."  It's clients are Carnival and Royal Caribbean (the cruise industry's largest cruise lines comprising 75% of the cruise market) as well as Radisson, Silversea and Star Cruises.

GP Wild's methodology intentionally excludes most cruise ship deaths.  It counted dead cruisers only if they were killed in an "operational casualty," such as collisions, fires, groundings or sinkings. But this limited definition does not include common situations like over-boards (170 in the last 10 years) like this case, or deaths due to norovirus like this case, or this case, or deaths caused by Legionnaires' Disease like this case, or due to shipboard medical malpractice like this case or this case, or fatalities due to rough weather and poor seamanship like this case, or cruise ship murders like this case, or this case, or this case, or deaths due to dangerous shipboard conditions like this case, or or deaths due to excursion mishaps like this case or this case, or fatalities due excessive alcohol like this case or this case.

It seems strange to to prepare a list of cruise deaths and exclude most of the dead people.

The problem with cruise death statistics is that there is no central cruise database which the public can access. The International Maritime Organizational (IMO) / flag state reporting systems are inconsistent and spotty.  There is no consequence when the cruise line and/or flag state don't report a death.  Even if the cruise line reports the fatality, the flag state does not have to report the incident to the IMO.  Like most UN agencies, the IMO is toothless. It  cannot compel a flag state to release casualties reports, assuming they decide to prepare one.  And flag states like Panama and the Bahamas Princess Cruises Star Princess Fireconduct amateurish reports which are designed to protect their cruise line customers.

Take, for example, an earlier deadly Costa cruise incident.  In 2010, the Costa Europa recklessly smashed into a pier in Alexandria, Egypt, killing three crew members and seriously injuring four more. The incident was published in newspapers in the Egyptian and British press. I blogged about it here, but otherwise there was no media coverage in the U.S.

After the Concordia capsized, many reporters here in the U.S. and in Europe, who were researching Costa's safety record, contacted me and asked for a copy of the maritime accident report regarding the Europa.

Of course I did not have a copy.  The point is no one had a copy of the casualty report.  The flag state, Italy, investigated the deaths but did not bother to send a copy of the report to the IMO.  Italy responded to inquiries from reporters  by stating that the report was "strictly confidential."

Even if the IMO obtained a report, it is unlikely it would share a copy with the family of the dead crew members or reporters.  The IMO does not release casualty reports to the public.  The flag states don't either.  And neither do the cruise lines which consider their reports regarding dead passengers to be the "confidential and privileged" property of the cruise line. 

The GP Wild report references the Europa incident, but there are no reports publicly available to discuss the factual findings and the probable cause of the incident. 

Contrast this with the strict and vigorous procedures of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which overseas the U.S. aviation industry.  TheAmerican Airlines Safety Record FAA data is accurate and public in nature where the cruise data is inaccurate and secret in nature.

U.S. commercial airlines have enjoyed a remarkably safer record over the past decade than the cruise industry. By all verifiable statistical data, travel by U.S. commercial airplane is much safer than traveling by cruise ship.

The U.S. air carriers transport around 750 million people a year. That's several times more than all cruise passengers and crew members over the last decade. There were no deaths on U.S. commercial carriers in 2007 and 2008 or in 2010.    

Unlike the secretive cruise industry, U.S. airplane manufacturers (like Boeing) and U.S. airline companies keep meticulous records regarding accidents and fatalities.  They release this information to the public. They are transparent.  No other form of public transportation is as carefully scrutinized, thoroughly investigated and closely monitored by outside U.S. agencies as commercial aviation. Foreign flagged cruise lines, on the other hand, incorporated in Africa and Central America, have no equivalent as the FAA.  They can bamboozle the United Nation's IMO without consequence.  Cruise lines claim that they don't keep records of fatalities and if they do, they are uniformly unwilling to share them even with the families of the dead.

Statistics don't always tell the full story of course.  Cruising is also the only place where you can be killed and your loved ones will have no legal recourse against the cruise line pursuant to the Death On The High Seas Act.

So let's get back to the cruise lines' claim that cruising is the safest means of public transportation today.  

Its not true.       

If you add the 32 dead and presumed dead from the Costa Concordia disaster to the cruise industry's reported number of dead passengers and crew - compared to flying on an U.S. air carrier - cruise ships may well be the deadliest Costa Concordia Muster - Cruise Shipform of public transportation.  

Think cruising is safe?  You may be more likely to die during a vacation cruise or working with Carnival or Royal Caribbean than flying on Delta or American Airlines.      

 

Photos, top to bottom:

NCL's Norway Explodes at Port of Miami

Carnival's Ecstasy Catches on Fire Off Miami Beach

Princess Cruises' Star Princess Ignites Off Jamaica

Costa Concordia Confusion in Giglio, Italy

MSC Armonia Crewmember Dies, Passengers Hospitalized

MSC Armonia Cruise Ship - Dead Crewmember, Sick PassengersA reader of Cruise Law News in Brazil has informed us that a crewmember of the Armonia cruise ship, operated by MSC Cruises, died yesterday after being admitted to the hospital in serious condition.

A newspaper in Brazil (G1 in Sao Paulo) reports that a local woman, Fabiana Pasquarelli, age 30, was taken from the MSC cruise ship and was eventually admitted to the intensive care unit of Hospital Ana Costa.

The deceased crewmember worked as a waitress and was taken to the hospital on Wednesday with a fever and cough and was apparently diagnosed with pneumonia.  

There is also speculation that she may have died of swine flu.

Five other crewmembers are also sick and have been under observation in the hospital since Friday. 

The cruise line said that passengers are disembarking the cruise ship today and new passengers will board.

Fabiana Pasquarelli MSC Cruises ArmoniaIf you have information about this incident, please leave a message below.  

February 18, 2012 Update:  Passengers from the cruise ship have also been hospitalized in serious condition.

Another Brazilian newspaper, A Tribuna, has an account and reports that the diagnosis is unclear although it is the result of an infectious process.  

Ms. Pasquarelli died of an acute respiratory failure after being placed on a ventilator.  

February 19, 2012 Update:

A newspaper in Brazil states that seven people of the ten passengers and crew from the cruise ship were released from the hospital. Three remain hospitalized.  The hospital ran tests to determine the type of infection that caused the sickness.

Five crewmembers have contacted us, wishing to remain anonymous, complaining that Ms. Pasquarelli's medical treatment was delayed.  Read comments below.

February 21, 2012 Update:

A spokesperson for MSC left a comment below.

Also, a newspaper in Buenos Aires reports that heath authorities in Uruguay were on board the MSC cruise ship, which docked this morning at the main port in Montevideo after fears of a flu outbreak. The ship is expected to arrive to Buenos Aires tomorrow.  Osvaldo Fabacchi, the head of Port Administration in Montevideo, stated that “at present the cause of the crew member’s death has not been confirmed. The autopsy has yet to be carried out in order to determine and confirm the cause of death.”

Another Cruise Passenger Found Dead In Cayman Islands Waters

A newspaper in the Cayman Islands is reporting that a 56 year old cruise ship passenger was found dead in the water Wednesday afternoon.

The cruise passenger was found floating on the water by people on a boat in Coral Gardens. They lifted the man onto their vessel, but found he was unconscious and unresponsive to CPR. He was transported to a yacht club where paramedics were waiting and then transported to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, but was found to be dead on arrival.Cayman Islands Drowning Death Cruise Ship

This incident sounds identical to the death of another cruise passenger in the same area. Last December a 71 year old cruise passenger from North Carolina was found dead in the water in the Coral Gardens area and taken to the same yacht club and hospital where he was pronounced dead. You can read about the death last year here.

The name of the latest cruise passenger to have died in Cayman Islands waters was not released. The name of the cruise ship was also not released.

If you have information about this latest fatality, please leave a comment below.  

 

Photo credit:  photos4travel / @patrix99

When Will Royal Caribbean Replace the Dangerous Stairs in the Catacombs Lounge on the Liberty of the Seas?

Last week, a Royal Caribbean guest fell while trying to descend a stairwell in the Catacombs lounge on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.

We wrote about the incident in our article: Royal Caribbean Passenger Falls & Dies on Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship.

A number of former passengers aboard this cruise ship left comments to our article:

Stairs Catacombs Nightclub - Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship. . . those stairs are so dangerous, why would they have stairs like this at a bar?????? while drinking is going on etc! No traction, no carpet,  Nothing . . . 

. . .  they looked dangerous and slippery.  Pretty? Yes - but dangerous . . .

. . . they are incredibly dangerous!!! . . .

. . .  those stairs, are EXTREMELY Dangerous.  Even from the picture you can see that they have little to no tread and no skid protection.  Mix that with heels, lack of bright lighting, drinking, and possible spillage..and you have a recipe for disaster . . .

Well, disaster did strike, and cruise passenger Barbara Wood died as a result.  Was this a freak accident?  No.  Royal Caribbean knew before this latest accident that these stairs pose a danger to their guests.  It has been sued before. 

One of the Miami maritime lawyers who I regularly consult with, Glenn Holzberg, filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean for a fall on these steps.  The lawsuit which Glenn filed alleges that back in September 2007, a cruise passenger: 

 . . . was on board the Liberty of the Seas, when she slipped and fell down the stairway within the Catacombs Lounge leading to the deck below, causing her to repeatedly strike her forehead and face and resulting in serious and permanent damage including a concussion, and closed head injuries. The direct and proximate cause of the fall was the condition and design of the stairway and individual stairs, making it difficult to distinguish one step from another, and the darkness in the Catacombs lounge leading to and surrounding the stairway . . .

Did Royal Caribbean make any changes to the stairwell after this earlier serious accident over the past 4 years?   Did it improve the lighting conditions around the stairwell?  Did it place any warning signs around the area? 

How many other passengers have been injured at this location? 

How many more injuries and deaths will it take before Royal Caribbean replaces these pretty but dangerous steps?

 

If you sailed on the Liberty and experienced difficulties with these steps, please consider leaving a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Sean Lloyd (Flickr)

Passenger Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas OverboardThe AP is reporting that a Irish cruise ship passenger went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, which is the world's largest cruise ship cruise ship.

(Update: If you are searching for the overboard involving a twenty-one (21) year old woman from Bartlett Tennessee who disappeared on September 16, 2012 from the Allure, click here.)

Royal Caribbean states that another passenger allegedly saw the British passenger, age 30, go over the railing from his stateroom on the Allure.  The cruise line then apparently verified the overboard by viewing images from closed circuit television.  

The incident occurred as the cruise ship was heading to Cozumel.  Announcements were made around 6:45 AM.  The cruise ship then stopped off the coast of Mexico near Cozumel. and participated in a brief search.  The ship was to depart tonight at 8:00 PM tonight and was scheduled to be at sea tomorrow, with a return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

There are rumors that the passenger may have left a suicide note and then stepped on a table and went overboard.

The last British citizen who disappeared in international waters near Mexico is Rebecca Coriam, a Disney cruise member employed as a youth counselor aboard the Disney Wonder.    

The last reported incident aboard the Allure of the Seas involved multiple rapes earlier last month

The cruise ship was under charter by Atlantis, which hosts parties for the gay and lesbian community.  The Allure had sailed from South Florida on January 29, 2012 to Labadee Haiti, Costa Maya Mexico, and then to Cozumel. 

In the past, the Atlantis - Royal Caribbean cruises have been marred by controversy, with drug overdoses, suicide, and a travel agent busted for selling drugs (arrested with 142 ecstasy pills, 3 grams of methamphetamine, ketamine and about $51,000 in cash).  You can read about these incidents below.

One year ago:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Two years ago:  Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise

Three years ago: GLAAD Board Member Dies Aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

And don't forget to read:  Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Does anyone know what happened on this latest Atlantis cruise party?

 

Allure of the Seas Atlantis Cruise

 

Photo credit:  Atlantis Events

Royal Caribbean Passenger Falls & Dies on Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship

Liberty of the Seas - Catacombs News sources are reporting that a passenger died aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship this morning after falling down a staircase. 

Massachusetts resident, Barbara Wood, age 47, reportedly was leaving the Catacombs nightclub aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas at about 1:48 a.m. when she fell on the stairs and struck her head, according to a statement by the Broward County Sheriff's office. 

Ms. Wood was taken to the ship’s infirmary where she was pronounced dead at 2:50 a.m., according to the Sheriff's office.  Sheriff’s deputies met the cruise ship when it docked at 5 a.m. at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. 

The Royal Caribbean PR spokesperson stated that the company would not speculate on what caused the accident. 

It should be noted that there should be closed circuit television (CCTV) maintained by the cruise line which should have captured the accident and should reveal exactly what happened.  It is less than clear where the accident occurred although the stairs around this club are extremely decorative. 

Any time an accident occurs late at night and near a nightclub, there is speculation that alcohol may have been involved.  This is nothing new.  Alcohol sales are a fundamental part of the cruise Liberty of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship - Catacombs experience, and alcohol is often pushed by the cruise lines. 

Royal Caribbean has undoubtedly already carefully reviewed this passenger's onboard purchases and determined exactly how many alcoholic beverages, if any, she purchased last night.  The cruise line will also have reviewed the CCTV images and interviewed those at the scene of the accident.  

To the extent that alcohol played any part in the accident, the maritime law regarding the liability of cruise lines is well settled.  In Hall v. Royal Caribbean, a passenger "was injured on the high seas when, after having been served alcohol by the vessel's employees to and obviously past the point of intoxication, he staggered from a lounge, and while unable to look after himself fell down two flights of open stairways." 

The appellate court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the case, finding that the dismissal "must be reversed because the complaint clearly stated a cause of action for breach of the defendant's duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers."  

If you were on the cruise and have additional information to add, please leave a comment below.

February 4, 2012 Update:

This i snot the first serious accident on the Liberty o fthe Seas involving the Catacombs stairwells: When Will Royal Caribbean Replace the Dangerous Stairs in the Catacombs Lounge on the Liberty of the Seas?

 

Photo credit:  Bottom photo - skinnie minnie / Flickr page

Carnival Cruise Passenger Falls to His Death on the Fantasy

Fantasy Cruise ShipMultiple news sources are reporting that a 26-year-old American passenger aboard a Carnival cruise ship fell to his death.  

The incident occurred on the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship.  The man apparently fell from the upper levels all the way down to the lobby level of the cruise ship

The cruise ship docked in Nassau, Bahamas last night.  Its departure today was delayed due to an investigation into the casualty. 

Bahamas police said in a statement today that the passenger was from South Carolina.  

The ship departed Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday for a five-day Bahamas cruise.  It is still scheduled to return to Charleston on Monday.

Were you on the cruise?  Do you have information regarding what happened?  Please leave a message below.

 

 

Video:  ABC News Charleston

Carnival Murder Case Reveals Out of Control Cruise Booze

Yesterday there were multiple news accounts of the sentencing of Carnival cruise passenger, Robert McGill, to life in jail for the brutal murder of his wife aboard the Elation cruise ship.

The crime occurred after McGill reportedly drank a half bottle of Mezcal and seven or eight beers while ashore in Cabo San Lucas.  The Southwest Riverside News reports today that McGill was "so inebriated he could not negotiate the ship’s gangplank without assistance upon returning from a shore visit."

After he killed his wife in an intoxicated rage, he cleaned himself up, placed a "do not disturb" sign on the cabin door, and proceeded to the top deck where he drank beers from a bucket as the Carnival Cruise Beer Bucketcruise ship sailed back to San Diego.

It is disturbing to me that the shipboard security would permit a passenger who is so-drunk-that-he-can't walk-straight onto the ship without escorting him to the ship doctor or placing him in the brig until he sobers up.  Certainly the security guards manning the gangway entrances are going to notice someone reeking of booze and stumbling through the metal detector like this.

What are Carnival's procedures when security observes passengers in such a high state of intoxication?  I'm not sure.  I know that many cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, consider such intoxication to be a violation of the passenger's code of conduct, which permits the cruise line to intervene and place the passengers in the brig for their own safety and that of other passengers.  

But in reality does any cruise line actually enforce this policy?  Did anyone on the Carnival Elation care when McGill stumbled aboard with a gut full of Mezcal and 90 ounces of cervezas consumed ashore in Cabo?

If Carnival had acted responsibly, McGill would have spent the evening and night in the brig to sober up and no one would be reporting on such a violent crime.   But it didn't.  Not only did Carnival let such a drunken passenger onto its ship, but it served McGill a bucket of beer after he killed his wife.  So much for not serving drunks. 

I know, many people reading this will say its not Carnival's fault, its a matter of personal responsibility.  Yes, personal responsibility plays a big part in life.  McGill should have acted Robert McGill - Cruise Ship Booze responsibly and not drank to excess, assuming that alcohol played a part in the murder.  But Carnival has a legal obligation of exercising its corporate responsibility to protect its guests as well.  There is a correlation between drunken passengers on cruise ships and violence, just like a connection between drunken bar patrons and bar fights.  

Two years ago, I blogged about the danger of violence and drunk Carnival passengers - Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships.

You can watch video of drunken passenger fighting in this article from last year - More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream.

In this case, Carnival looked the other way when McGill staggered aboard.  Carnival profited by selling McGill beer later.  Buckets of bud lite beer on Carnival ships go for $25 for five beers, which would cost less than $5 a six pack ashore.

The LA Times has an interesting photo of Mr. McGill being escorted off the crew gangway by a FBI agent, as passengers are seen boarding the passenger gangway above to begin their cruise on schedule.

It seems that Carnival's motto is load em' off, load em' in. Let the drinking begin . . . 

Court Rejects Mezcal-Scorpion Defense, Sentences Cruise Passenger to Life for Killing Wife Aboard Cruise Ship

Robert McGill - Murder - Carnival Elation Cruise ShipA life sentence in jail was imposed today on a cruise passenger by a Federal District Judge for a murder on a cruise ship which occurred two years ago. 

In July 2009, Robert and Shirley McGill cruised to Cabo San Lucas aboard the Carnival Elation cruise ship to celebrate Mr. McGill's 55th birthday and his wife's retirement.  

But following heavy drinking ashore in Mexico, McGill strangled and beat his wife to death in their cabin.  McGill was arrested when the Elation arrived in San Diego.

We wrote about the cruise crime last year - Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case.

McGill apologized for his actions at the court sentencing today although he didn't explain why he killed his wife.  

Mezcal - Scorpion Made Me Do ItHis defense attorney argued that McGill was a good man who made a horrible mistake after getting drunk. 

According to the AP, the defense lawyer argued that his client hallucinated after drinking a half bottle of Mezcal and seven or eight beers.  He was so intoxicated that he had to be helped up the gangway after drinking in Cabo.  McGill said he believed a scorpion that was in the Mezcal bottle had "set him off."

U.S. Chief District Judge Irma Gonzalez said she didn't buy the scorpion-made-do-it excuse.

The Court noted that after killing his wife, McGill cleaned himself up and then went to an upper deck to smoke a cigar.   Other news accounts report that he ordered a bucket of beer which he continued to drink as the cruise ship headed back to the U.S.

Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Do Cruise Passengers Have Any Rights?

CBC News in Canada published a story this week about cruise passenger Bernie Hamilton, age 66, who died following a Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise due to what sounds like a series of errors by the ship's medical personnel.  The article is entitled "Cruise Death Prompts Warning on Ships' Medical Care."  

I have heard these stories time after time over the years.   A couple excited about a dream vacation.  The husband experiences medical issues during the cruise which a competent doctor ashore would easily handle.  But due to blunders by the cruise ship medical team, the wife returns home alone to face the cruise line's denials of responsibility for the suffering and death.

In Bernie Hamilton's case, you can read about the ship doctor's misdiagnosis by concluding that Mr. Hamilton had just a common cold or perhaps asthma which led to a prescription of Ventolin which accelerates a patient's heart rate.  You can read that after Mr. Hamilton collapsed on Holland America Line - Cruise Ship Medical Carethe floor of the cabin, his wife Heather had to witness the spectacle of the medical personnel trying to decipher the instructions for the automatic defibrillator as precious minutes ticked away on her husband's life.  

After the ship medical team struggled to insert an intravenous line and intubation tube and finally "stabilized" Mr. Hamilton, the ship put Mr. Hamilton ashore in Spain where the shore-side doctors declared him brain dead.

Ms. Hamilton received no apologies from HAL.  The cruise line is quoted in the article saying that they "believe the care provided to Mr. Hamilton was appropriate."  All that Ms. Hamilton received from HAL was a bill for $2,000.

Last year, I wrote an article "If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad" which explains the dangers provided by the limited nature of cruise ship medical care and the difficulty seeking compensation when malpractice of the ship doctor or nurses harms your family. 

Yes, doctors and nurses make mistakes, but a cruise ship is about the only place where a doctor can negligently kill your loved one and there is no accountability. 

As I mentioned last year, as long as cruise lines are not liable for bad medical care, there is no financial incentive for the ships to invest in training and hiring more qualified and experienced doctors and nurses.

There is no economic or moral justification for such an inequitable situation. The cruise industry collects over $35 billion dollars a year and pays no Federal income taxes by registering their cruise ships in foreign countries.  As long as travel agents, cruise fans and the public are indifferent to these type of stories, in the future other families will experience the horror of dream vacations going terribly wrong.

 

Photo credit:   CBC News / Heather Hamilton

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports today that the U.S. Coast Guard continues to investigate the  fatal parasailing accident in St. Thomas which killed a Celebrity Cruises passenger and seriously injured her daughter on November 15, 2011.

We discussed this incident in our article Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas.

The incidents resulted in the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, age 60 who the newspaper identifies lived in Round Lake, Illinois.  Her daughter, Danielle Haese, age 34, is identified as living in  Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.

The Virgin Islands Daily News states that it is "unclear what caused the tandem riders to fall from the parachute and harnessed rig."  In its first article about the mishap, the newspaper cited speculation that winds gusts may have played a part in the accident.

A Coast Guard representative mentions that ten Coast Guard members from St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. are conducting a maritime casualty investigation. The investigation checked the operators from the excursion company,Caribbean Watersports and Tours, for drug and alcohol shortly after the accident. 

Coast Guard investigations like this may take many months to complete.

HAL's Veendam: 1 Dead, 80 Sick

Multiple news sources are reporting that an U.S passenger died aboard Holland America Line's Veendam cruise ship that arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.

HAL's Veendam is also the same cruise ship on which approximated 80 passengers fell ill, according to the state-run Brazilian news agency, Agencia Brasil.  The agency refers to the cruise passengers as suffering from "gastro-enteritis."  It is unknown whether there is a norovirus outbreak. 

Forensic doctors are investigating the death of the American passenger.  A CNN article reports that the cruise ship doctors told police that the woman was "elderly and suffered from diabetes and hypertension."  (So much for the confidentiality of a patient's medical information.) 

The Veendam left New York 36 days ago for a South America cruise. The Veendam had stopped earlier in the cruise at ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay before reaching Rio de Janeiro.

November 23, 2011 Update: 

HAL claims that the death and the illness of some 80 passengers are unrelated.  HAL issued a statement to Noticias de Cruceros that the passenger died due to a heart condition which had nothing to do with the  gastrointestinal ilnesses.  It's amazing how cruise line PR people suddenly become epidemiologists when someone dies on their cruise ship. 

HAL Veendam - Cruise Cruise Norovirus?But a local newspaper in Brazil, Clarin, has the following account (translated):

An American, 61, died of a suspected food poisoning on a luxury cruise ship which arrived in Rio de Janeiro, from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, in which 86 other passengers had symptoms such as cramps and vomiting, reported Brazilian authorities, in what is thought to be an outbreak of gastroenteritis due to consumption of bad food and poor hygiene.

The Holland America liner MS Veendam, carrying 1259 passengers, arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was quarantined to be subjected to investigations by the Brazilian Federal Police and the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) .

Tourism Secretary de Janeiro, Ronald Azaro, said that 79 people have contracted some sort of infection on the trip. When the November 6 cruise departed from Valparaiso, Chile, ANVISA received a warning symptoms of some passengers.  He went to Argentina and Uruguay, having started the journey in New York, USA, with stops in Panama and Colombia, according to the Brazilian press.

The official said the Brazilian Federal Police took over the investigation into the death of the American, identified as Dorothy Philips, age 61, occurred on board as the ship was in the Maua Pier in the city of Rio. 

Sources told the Brazilian media crew that the crew issued a red alert three days ago to take care with hygiene and some food. For now, the pool and the library of the cruise were closed. 

According to the NASS report released last month, 27% of cruise ships passing through the Brazilian coast have health problems than those permitted by the rules in Brazil. Among the problems, according to an official report collection are inadequate food and lack of water conditions offered to passengers. 

ANVISA recalled thatpassengers on the same boat, in March this year, experienced gastroenteritis cruising to  Brazil. At least 43 passengers had symptoms in Belem, capital of Amazon state of Pará.

 

Photo credit:  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire 

Life In Jail For Cruise Passenger Who Threw Wife Overboard

Yesterday, a jury convicted a Chinese passenger of murder after finding that he threw his wife off a cruise ship.   

The Standard newspaper in Hong Kong reports that Wang Weile, age 49, shook his head in disbelief when the seven member jury returned its guilty verdict.  The judge then sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Charlie Chan's Murder CruiseAs we reported in our article about this bizarre crime earlier this week - Sea Burial or Cruise Murder? - the cruise passenger claimed that he accidentally injured his wife while trying to keep her from committing suicide.  When she lost consciousness, he thought that she was dead. 

Wang claims that he suddenly remembered that she wanted a burial at sea.  He then pitched her overboard to honor her wishes.

The couple have a nine year old child.  

However when he took the stand at trial, he retracted the "sea burial" story.  He admitted being partially responsible for his wife's injuries, explaining that he struggled with her after she asked him to leave her alone and find another woman.

He also alleged his wife wanted to borrow 400,000 yuan (around $63,00) for her niece's business.

The incident occurred on the Macau Success, a casino cruise ship, while it was in Hong Kong waters.

As bizarre as Wang's defense sounds, the guilty verdict was not unanimous. 

One juror voted to acquit Wang.

Sea Burial or Cruise Murder?

What do you do if you accidentally knock your wife unconscious when she tries to commit suicide on a cruise?  Do you throw her overboard after suddenly remembering that she wanted to be buried at sea?

Yes, pretty far fetched.  But that is exactly the defense offered in a criminal trial against a Chinese cruise passenger who is accused of murdering his wife and then pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success last year.  

The Standard newspaper in China explains that Wang Weilie, age 49, stands accused of murdering his wife Yang Wenjuan, age 43, during a cruise on September 24th last year.

Macau Success - Cruise Ship Murder - Passenger OverboardA cruise passenger witnessed the couple on a deck when Wang pushed Yang's head backwards towards the railing.  He rushed to notify the cruise staff but returned to find the couple gone but blood covering the deck.

Cruise security guards observed bloodstains on Wang's fingertips.  He said the injuries to his fist, chest and knee were caused during a struggle to prevent his wife from killing herself.  However, when she lost consciousness, he threw her overboard.

A post-mortem examination found bruises, abrasions and a broken arm.  A pathologist concluded Yang "died of drowning after sustaining significant but otherwise non-fatal injuries."

According to an article published last year, the couple have a nine year old son.

The bizarre story reminds me of the violent death of cruise passenger Karen Roston whose husband threw her overboard on the last night of her honeymoon cruise from the Sundancer cruise ship operated by Admiral Cruises of Miami.  Scott Roston concocted a story 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. 

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.  Her husband was observed with scratches on his face after her disappearance.  A medical examiner concluded from an autopsy that Ms. Roston had been strangled and then thrown overboard . . .

 

Photo credit:    shipphotos.com.au

Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective

One of the purposes of this blog is to educate the public of dangers of cruising and the legal hurdles passengers face when things go wrong during a cruise.  

One of the first issues I felt compelled to write about when I started this blog over two years ago was the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOSHA does not permit cruise passengers to recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if a loved one dies outside of the territorial waters of the U.S.  DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages. 

If a child is killed during a cruise or shore excursion due to the cruise line's negligence, there is no recovery at all because the child is not a wage earner.  I wrote about this in my series of the "ten reasons not to cruise" -  Reason No. 5:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless.

Cruise lines love DOSHA.  It eliminates all consequences of their negligence and provides no incentive to act responsibly.  The cruise industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make certain that DOSHA is not amended to provide reasonable compensation to grieving families.

This weekend, I received the following comments from a Mom who lost her daughter during a  Holland American Line cruise, while on HAL's "private island" Half Moon Cay.          

Holland America Line's "Family Cruise" - Half Moon Cay

"My 3 year-old daughter was killed on Christmas Eve of last year while on a Holland America cruise with her biological father. She drowned in the designated children's swim area of a private island Death On The High Seas Act - Holland America Line -  Cruisein the Bahamas owned by HAL.  This tragedy occurred in plain view of hundreds of people present and right near where a lifeguard SHOULD have been actively on duty.

I would never have considered allowing her on the cruise if I believed for a moment that I was putting her in harm's way.

Imagine what it feels like to receive a phone call on Christmas Day and fully expecting to hear a relative calling with a Christmas greeting.  Instead, you are informed, with no preamble or warning, that your darling daughter is dead.

Holland America has made it perfectly clear to us that they feel they have no responsibility in the matter, and even if they did have any liability, that their interests are fully protected by the Death on the High Seas Act.  Never mind the fact that the children's swim area contained many bright toys to lure children into the water, and deliberately lulls the guests into a false sense of security with signs nearby that say "Paradise -- you'll want to stay forever" (or similar.)  Because the DOHSA does not cover pain and suffering (only loss of a paycheck, and let's face it, my daughter didn't have a steady job), they have informed me that I am entitled to absolutely nothing.

Thanks, Holland America. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

Be aware of this stance before you go on one of Holland America's "Family Cruises" (one of their employees told me their target market is families for their Christmas Cruises).  Holland America is only too happy to take full advantage of their supposed protection under a law that they themselves have so much as admitted as being archaic.  For some terribly naive reason, I actually had hoped that instead of hiding behind the cover of an inappropriate law to protect themselves from their failures to provide a safe environment for my child, that they would actually be moved to simply do the right thing.  Silly me.

The DOHSA Act was originally passed in 1920 to cover scenarios of a fisherman (read: breadwinner) lost at sea.  The intent of the law was certainly never to cover the loss of a child on a cruise, but the cruise industry is taking full advantage of its existence and has opposed efforts to change this law.

The lesson that Holland America has taught me with their brush-off treatment of my complaint is loud and clear: pain and suffering are worthless.  I can't even bring myself to contemplate what their message communicates with regards to their perceived value of the life of my daughter."


 

Were you on the cruise or at Half Moon Cay at the time of this incident? 

Should DOHSA be amended to provide the same remedies as land based law?

Please leave a comment below . . .

 

For other articles on DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Two Passenger Deaths on NCL Cruise Ship

Multiple news sources are reporting that two passengers died aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship which returned to port in Boston this morning.  The passengers died separately on the ship on Thursday.

One of the passengers, a 67-year-old woman, has been removed from the vessel.  State Police said that her death was not suspicious.

The second death, involving a 23-year-old man, is being investigated.  His cabin is being scrutinized by crime scene investigators because of his young age and the unknown cause of his death.

Massachusetts State Police and Suffolk County detectives are investigating the deaths.  

NCL has yet to commented on either death. 

The last time a young passenger died on a NCL was August of last year.  A 21 year old passenger died aboard the Epic after a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.   

Were you on the cruise or have information about these deaths?  Please leave a comment below.

October 28, 2011 Update:  The NCL cruise ship is the Norwegian Dawn.  The local District Attorney states that neither incident involved foul play.  

Holland America Line Sued Following Death of Passenger During Excursion in Belize

The Seattle Times reports that the husband of a cruise passenger filed a wrongful death suit Holland America Line in Seattle after his wife was killed during a cruise sponsored snorkeling excursion.

The incident occurred when passenger Diana Mechling had just entered the water from the excursion boat off the coast of Belize to start snorkeling.  The operator put the vessel in reverse, and the propeller struck Ms. Mechling.  According to the newspaper, her husband, Michael Mechling, was present on the snorkeling vessel during the incident.  Ms. Mechling died in a local hospital.

The Belize-based operator of the snorkeling excursion, Cruise Solutions Belize Ltd., was also named in the lawsuit.

We reported on this tragedy last February shortly after the incident occurred.  You can read the account here

A local newspaper in Belize, 7 News Belize, reported in February that Port Authority Belize concluded its investigation into matter and found that the Captain of the boat Reef Rocket, Martine Manuel Pariente was negligent.  The Port Authority has decided to charge the cruise operator with negligently causing loss of life, and has suspended his captain's license.

The passenger's family can now expect the Belize excursion company to deny that it is subject to jurisdiction in the United States, as it has done in other cases where cruise passengers are injured during cruise excursions.

Newborn Baby Dies on Carnival Cruise Ship

A Carnival crewmember found a dead baby in a passenger cabin this week.  The child is apparently the newborn baby of a twenty year old passenger. 

The disturbing discovery occurred aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship.  Carnival released a statement indicating that Dutch authorities detained the mother in St. Maarten, where the cruise ship called on Wednesday.  The FBI boarded the Dream when it returned to Port Canaveral.  The FBI has special maritime jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes involving U.S. passengers in international waters.      

Carnival does not permit pregnant women to cruise if their estimated gestational age on the day of disembarkation is 25 weeks or more. 

There is no indication whether the baby was stillborn or died after the mother gave birth.  An autopsy should provide answers.

 

 

If you have additional information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

Video credit:  CBS / Today Show

24 Year Old Passenger Falls to His Death on the Celebrity Equinox

Multiple sources are reporting that a U.S. passenger fell from an upper balcony to his death while cruising aboard the Celebrity Equinox in the Mediterranean Sea.

The incident occurred on September 26th while the Equinox was sailing toward the port of Kusadasi Turkey.

I first learned of the incident today while reading cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's blog, which contains an account from a cruise passenger that: " . . . a man of age 25ish jumped from the 11th floor and died.  Do you know any thing about this as it has been kept very much in the dark as we were on the side of the ship from where he jumped. Some say he had a disagreement with his girlfriend and some say he was sleep walking. 

The account states that the passenger " . . .  hit the life boat metal rigging gear, it took about 30 mins to get to him but was dead at the scene."

A newspaper in Turkey states that the passenger was allegedly sleepwalking when he went overboard around 3:00 AM.  The cruise ship then arrived in Kusadasi around 8:00 AM.  After an investigation by Turkish police, the cruise ship sailed on to Rhodes Greece as part of its regular itinerary.

Some real conflicting stories, it seems?

Another quick investigation by the Turkish police?  Were these the same police in Turkey which conducted the quick investigation into George Smith's disappearance during his honeymoon

Were you on the cruise?  Do you have information which may shed light on this case?  Please leave a comment below.

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Ship - Passenger Death

 

Photo credit:  Krafft Angerer/Getty Images (via New York Times blog)  

Carnival Passenger Dies While Snorkeling Off Bermuda

The Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda reports that a 79 year old cruise passenger died on Sunday while snorkeling about one mile offshore off the West End.

The newspaper indicates that man was a US citizen from Carnival's Fantasy cruise ship, and part of a tour group.  He was found in a “unresponsive state” in the water. 

A member of Carnival Cruise Lines "guest care team" reportedly was meeting with the victim's family. 

The comments to the article raise the issue whether the tour company had a policy in place requiring passengers to wear personal floatation devices (PFD's).

This is the second death of a cruise passenger in the waters of Bermuda recently.  In June 2011, a passenger from Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas died after going on a "helmet diving" in excursion with Hartley's Bell Diving off of Bermuda.  You can read that tragedy in Royal Caribbean Passenger Dies During Diving Excursion in Bermuda

September 22, 2011 Update:

The passenger has been identified as Joe Alston.

Disney Cruise Line Passenger Dies During Kayaking Excursion

A passenger from the Disney Wonder cruise ship kayaking in Juneau was found dead over the past weekend.  KINY Radio reports that the U.S. Coast Guard was notified Saturday morning and found 67-year-old cruise passenger Robert Newell unconscious in a kayak in the vicinity of Spuhn Island.

The Coast Guard brought him ashore, and rescue personnel declared him dead at the scene.

 

Royal Caribbean Passenger Dies During Diving Excursion in Bermuda

The BDA Sun newspaper in Bermuda is reporting that a 52 year-old cruise passenger died during a diving excursion in Bermuda.

Donna Zapata cruised with her husband on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas to BermudaShe went on what is described as a "helmet diving" excursion with Hartley's Bell Diving.  The newspaper explains that this involves "shallow water where divers wear airtight helmets to view the underwater world." 

After a dive, Ms. Zapata complained of shortness of breath.  She reportedly was given oxygen aboard the excursion vessel and the excursion staff called shore-side for emergency medical personnel to be ready ashore.  But its reportedly took "about 20 minutes to get everyone back on board and get to shore." 

Ms. Zapata lost consciousness and passed away at the King Edward VII Hospital.

The Bermuda Police Service has the following account:

"Police have commenced an investigation into the death of an American woman who was visiting the island as a cruise ship passenger. It appears that around 12 noon on Tuesday, June 7th 52 year old Donna Zapata was in the Mangrove Bay area ‘helmet diving’ with family members when she got into difficulty. EMTs performed CPR as the victim was rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital via ambulance; however they were unable to revive her. She was subsequently pronounced dead at 1pm on Tuesday by an on call physician at the hospital. An autopsy will be performed on the deceased during the course of this week."

Virgin Islands Daily News: Parents of 14 Year Old Girl Killed in Coki Point Sue Carnival Cruise Line

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports today on the death of a young girl killed during a cruise stop in St. Thomas.  We represent the parents of the deceased girl, Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, a victim of the saddest, most senseless and avoidable tragedies we have ever seen in 28 years of practicing law.  Here is the article today:  

"ST. THOMAS - The family of Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, the 14-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet in a shooting at Coki Point beach last year, is suing Carnival Corporation for the wrongful death of their daughter and for not warning the family about the high level of crime on St. Thomas.

The civil lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida, seeks damages in excess of $75,000.

On the morning of July 12, 2010, gunfire broke out during a burial service at Coki Point cemetery, leaving St. Thomas resident Shaheel Joseph, 18, and Liz Marie dead.

The area was crowded with mourners and tourists, including Liz Marie and her family, who were traveling onboard the Carnival Victory. The family, from Puerto Rico, was celebrating their daughter's quinceañera, or 15th birthday, as well as the parents' 23rd wedding anniversary.

Liz Marie Perez ChaparroLiz Marie and her family were riding in a safari taxi leaving Coki Point beach and Coral World when the mid-morning gunfire broke out. Liz Marie was shot once in the side and was rushed to Schneider Hospital but died shortly after.

In April, a V.I. Superior Court jury convicted Steve Tyson, 22, of killing Joseph and Liz Marie. He is scheduled for sentencing June 21.

Liz Marie's father, Ceferino Peréz; mother, Aida Esther Chaparro; and 21-year-old brother, Amilkar Peréz Chaparro are plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against Carnival.

The complaint says the defendant, Carnival Corporation, has a duty to warn passengers of any danger known to exist in any port of call.

According to court documents, on the family's first night of the cruise a Carnival employee encouraged the family to visit Coral World and Coki Point beach while on St. Thomas.

"Coki Beach is well known as a location for drug sales, thefts, and gang violence. There have been numerous reported violent crimes at Coki Beach. Carnival was well aware of these violent crimes," the family's complaint said.

The lawsuit characterizes the burial service as a gang funeral conducted for a gang member who had been shot to death by a rival gang member the previous week.

The service at Coki Point cemetery was for Joseph Ferrari, 23, who was shot in broad daylight in front of Tutu Park Mall on June 29, 2010.

The Perez family's lawsuit cites local news reports about the high number of homicides in the territory in 2009 and 2010. It also quotes testimony of V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer at a Senate hearing three months prior to the Coki Point shooting acknowledging that many of the territory's killings were the result of turf wars and revenge killings.

"Defendant knew or should have known that St. Thomas was experiencing a crime wave and that homicides in the Virgin Islands were at record highs," the complaint said.

Liz Marie's death was because of Carnival's negligent failure to investigate or screen its ports of call, the lawsuit said.

The suit also accuses Carnival of concealing, suppressing and mischaracterizing information about prior incidents where cruise ship passengers were victimized and of protecting Carnival's own business interests at the expense of passengers' rights."

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-7882 ext. 311 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

For additional information, read:  "Heartache Wrenches Those Who Knew Slain Girl"

Miami New Times: Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout

The lawsuit we filed this week of behalf of our clients for the death of their daughter, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, has been covered in the Miami New Times and USA Today this week.  The article, written by Tim Elfrink, for the Miami New Times is entitled "Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout."

"Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was celebrating her quinceañera on a Carnival cruise with her parents last summer when an employee convinced the family to join an excursion in St. Thomas. What he didn't mention, Chaparro's family says, is that a heated gang war was raging in the area.

Liz Marie Perez Chaparro - Death - Carnival Cruise Chaparro died on a tour bus when a shootout exploded between the rival gangs at a funeral, peppering the young tourist with bullets. Her family filed suit against Carnival today, alleging they should have known the violence was likely.

Chaparro and her parents, Ceferino Perez and Aida Esther Chaparro, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They saved for ten months to pay for her quinceañera cruise last July, they told the Virgin Island Daily News.

On July 12, one of the first nights of the cruise, Perez was drinking on deck when a cruise employee sold him on a trip to Coki Beach, a popular sandy stretch in St. Thomas.

But Perez didn't know that the Virgin Islands at the time were riding an all-time high homicide streak, he says in his lawsuit. Already that calendar year, the islands -- with a population of 100,000 -- had seen 43 murders.

What's more, Perez says, the week before a gang member had been shot and killed at a mall near Coki Beach and his gang had planned a funeral at a cemetery near the beach on the day of the excursion.

"(Carnival) should have known there was a high risk of an attempted gang revenge killing at the funeral," Perez says in the suit.

Either way, soon after Perez and his family boarded the bus for Coki Beach it was trapped on a two-lane road blocked by the gang members.  When a shootout broke out, their bus was caught in the crossfire.

Fourteen-year-old Liz Marie Chaparro died on the scene.

A Carnival spokesperson didn't immediately return a phone call and an email about the lawsuit this morning; we'll update the post when we hear back."

 

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Carnival Passenger Killed on Jet Ski in the Bahamas

Multiple news stations are reporting today that a passenger from the Carnival Sensation cruise ship was fatally injured while in a serious accident involving a jet ski rented during a port call in Nassau. 

A second passenger sustained injuries and is recovering at a hospital in Nassau. 

Carnival states that the cruise passengers rented the jet ski directly from a local vendor.  The U.S. Department of State has the following warning about water sports rentals in the Bahamas:

"The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated.  Every year people are killed or injured due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or scuba/snorkeling equipment.  Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. There have been reports that some operators do not actually provide insurance coverage even when the renter opted (and paid) for insurance coverage.  Visitors should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance."

Carnival flew a "care team" from Miami to provide assistance to the passengers' families.  Carnival issued a statement: "All of us are deeply saddened by this event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those involved."

May 10th Update:

Accident like this are not isolated incidents.  BahamasB2B.com has the following story entitled "Another Bahamas Tourist Dies on a Jet Ski:"

"The continued failure of the Bahamas government to enforce jet-ski regulations might possibly be viewed as criminal negligence.

A female tourist from the United States died in a horrific jet-ski accident in Nassau Harbour around 5:00pm on Saturday.

The 27-year-old woman from Florida, and a male companion also in his late 20s, had rented a jetski after arriving in Nassau on a Carnival Cruise ship.

The pair was riding the jet-ski in Nassau Harbour when they crashed into a boat near the entrance of the harbour, off the Montagu Foreshore.

Despite efforts by paramedics, the woman died almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital.

Her male companion is in serious condition after suffering head injuries.

Police investigations are underway as police try to figure out who was actually driving the jet-ski, where they acquired the vehicle and the circumstances leading up to the deadly accident.

Concerns over the dangers of jet-skis and other watersports have been ignored for years by the Bahamas Government, depsite numeorus deaths and serious injuries.

There is a poorly enforced law that requires jet-ski operators to provide a 15-minute training session to anyone interested in renting a jet-ski. However, that is rarely done and never enforced.

The names of the victims have not yet been released."

You can read about other jet ski accidents in the Bahamas here

"Jet Ski Operators Defend Industry After Death" explains some of the problems with renting jet skis in the Bahamas.

If a U.S. Based Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation

The cruise community has been closely following the sad story of 73 year old grandmother, Janet Richardson, who was dropped into the frigid Artic Sea two weeks ago during a botched transfer between the Ocean Countess cruise ship and an awaiting rescue vessel. 

She died this past weekend.

We have posted stories on this sad incident and photographs of the debacle.

Janet Richardson - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActYesterday Cruise Critic U.K. posted an artice on its blog asking the question "Would You Sue" if this happened to your wife or grandmother? 

The article was directly primarily to its U.K. readers and assumes that a bereaved husband who lost his wife under these circumstances would be legally entitled to significant compensation. 

But in the U.S., sadly this is not the case.

If a retired passenger like Ms. Richardson was on an U.S. based cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean which negligently dropped her overboard to her death, the case would be governed by a U.S. law called the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOHSA does not provide any basis for the recovery by the grieving family members for their grief and bereavement.  It also does not provide any compensation for the pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased passenger either.  This is because the only compensation permitted under DOHSA involves "pecuniary" damages (meaning financial losses). 

Pecuniary damages include primarily lost wages.  But in cases of retired passengers (or children for that matter) they are not working so there are no such damages.

The only "pecuniary" damages when a retired passenger is rescued and died would be medical expenses (assuming the passenger is rescued and makes it to the hospital).  If the hospital expenses are covered by insurance and/or by Medicare, there are liens which apply which will be asserted by the insurance companies and the federal government.  The only other potential damages are burial and funeral expenses.  However, if the retired passenger is not rescued or the body is not recovered, hence no obligation for funeral or burial expenses, there are no recoverable damages at all.

So before a passenger's surviving family decides to file a lawsuit, the question not only is there is a reasonable basis to win the lawsuit, but what are the damages if the lawsuit is successful?

In the U.S., the only damages may well be the cost of burying your loved one.  The expenses of hiring experts to prove liability for the passenger's accident and to prove that the death was caused by the fall and shock of exposure to freezing water (as opposed to a pre-existing medical condition) may exceed the funeral expenses the surviving family incurs. 

The cruise line defense lawyers understand this completely.  In a worst case scenario, if Carnival drops your grandmother into the water and kills her, the most the cruise line will pay your family is the cost of putting her in a casket and then burying her in the ground.

Most passengers don't understand this.   The cruise line won't explain this before you take your grandparents on a cruise.  Take a moment and consider:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless   

DOHSA is an archaic law which was enacted in 1920.  The cruise lines love it, but it is fundamentally unfair to the families of loved ones who die at sea.  It provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their procedures to make cruising reasonably safe for the travelling public. 

 

 

For additional information, please read our cases discussing DOHSA.

Photo credit: Patrick Hill via U.K.'s Mail Online

 

Cruise Ship Passenger Dropped in Frigid Water Dies

Sad news.  Cruise passenger Janet Richardson, who was dropped from off of a stretcher while rescue staff tried to transfer her from the Ocean Countess cruise ship to a rescue vessel, died in the hospital in the U.K.

Ms. Richardson suffered from some medical problems and apparently was experiencing internal bleeding when a decision was made to take her to hospital by a rescue vessel.  We have reported on the disastrous circumstances which thereafter followed in prior articles.

Janet Richardson Cruise ShipThe news sources we have read indicate that she remained in the freezing waters from 4 to 8 minutes.  An autopsy may indicate whether her death was due to her illness or the shock of the fall and exposure to freezing water.

According to the U.K. press, Ms. Richardson's husband, George, said: “Janet died peacefully on Thursday night in the Cumberland infirmary with her family and friends around her."

The cruise ship was operated by Cruise and Maritime voyages.  A spokesperson for the cruise operator told the U.K. press: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the richardson ­family at this sad time.”

We first learned of Ms. Richardson's passing when her niece left a message on our YouTube site which has a video regarding the incident:

"This is my auntie .  .  .  such a lovely kind and very caring person who will be greatly missed, we all love you so much  . . ." 

 

Photo credit:  Patrick Hill via BBC News 

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Newspapers in India are reporting that a young man working as a crew member on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship disappeared at sea.

"Disappearances" at sea have been a regular occurrence on Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the past several years.   

The Times of India ("Did 'Missing' Ship Staffer End Life?") and the Hindustan Times ("Chef Commits Suicide in U.S., Mom Cries Foul") report that 27 year old Sandip Surwade went missing from Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship on February 18th in waters near Aruba.

Sandip Surawade - Missing - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasThe Indian newspapers report that Mr. Surwade left India for work on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in June of last year.  On February 20th of this year, a representative from the local hiring agency in India came to Mr. Surwade's home in Bara Bungalow, Thane (north of Mumbai) and told his family that he was "missing."  The hiring agency gave the family a telephone number and e-mail address of Dr. Fabio Acevedo, a supervisor in the medical crew department of the cruise line.

Later, the cruise line told the family that their son committed suicide by jumping off the cruise ship around 9:00 p.m. on February 18th.  The cruise line claims that Mr. Surwade left a letter which mentions the name of a female crew member with whom Mr. Surwade was allegedly involved, notwithstanding that he was reportedly engaged to be married in April. The letter purportedly states that his supervisors were troubling him and the woman due to their relationship. 

His family doubts the authenticity of the letter which, according to the newspaper articles, was written in chaste Hindi, a language with which he not particularly familiar. The family tells the newspapers that Royal Caribbean and the local agent for the cruise line has "stonewalled" them. 

The cruise line, however, states that there are closed circuit video tapes documenting the overboard and an eye witness who allegedly confirms that Mr. Surwade jumped from the ship.  

What is one to make of this mess?  The family suspects foul play.  If another crew member saw him jump, why did the cruise line first tell the family that their son was "missing" and then mention "suicide" later?  Why did it take the cruise line 2 days to tell the family?

Adding to the confusion is that the first public account of this incident is in a newspaper in Aruba, Cruise Ship Overboard - Missing Crew Memberindicating that it was a passenger who committed suicide.  Another newspaper in Aruba indicates that the cruise ship first reported the incident around 11:00 p.m. on February 18th which, if true, would be 2 hours after the overboard.  Helicopters and a coast guard cutter from Aruba searched for 4 hours before ending the search with intentions of searching again at day light.      

An online website, "Cruise Bruise," speculates wildly that Mr. Surwade's disappearance may have been a drug-related murder.  As we reported,  Royal Caribbean crew members were smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America aboard this cruise ship and there was a drug bust on the Grandeur of the Seas ship a few days later when the ship reached Montego Bay.  However, there is no indication that Mr. Sandip was involved in drug smuggling or a victim of violence by drug smugglers, and at this point there is no connection between his disappearance and the drug bust as suggested by others.

Nonetheless, we are  suspicious of most anything this cruise line says.  It suffers from a lack of transparency and the most unexplained disappearances and deaths of any cruise line. 

Did this crew member really commit suicide, which is the cruise line's favorite excuse?  Consider how cruise lines use the "suicide defense" as a public relations tool -  "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Also consider in the last year:

January 6. 2011: Another Passenger Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

November 30, 2010: Death of a Young Jamaican Cook on the Mega Ship Oasis of the Seas 

May 24, 2010: Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

May 5, 2010: Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

March 22, 2010: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

January 4, 2010: Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Sandip Surawade - Overboard - Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the SeasJanuary 1, 2010:  Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Determining the cause of cruise ship overboards and mysterious deaths is the role of experts - the F.B.I., sometimes the U.S. Coast Guard, or other law enforcement authorities - not the cruise lines' PR departments.   

But this case raises a more profound question.  Who investigates the circumstances of a crew member from India who goes overboard into waters around Aruba from a cruise ship flagged in the Bahamas and operated by a cruise line incorporated in Liberia?

This is a no man's land, where there are no clear answers - only self-serving statements by a cruise line with a reputation of being less than honest. 

 

Photo credits: 

Photographs   24ORA.com

Overboard drawing     CruelKev2's blog regarding overboard cruise passengers 

Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczNelson Perez Torres, age 24, reportedly confessed to striking Royal Caribbean crew member Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.

As we reported in a prior article, Ms. Monika Markiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish musician who worked aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship was found last Saturday in the waters off the southern part of Cozumel.  Her employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicated that she was a victim of foul play.  

This morning, Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, claiming that the killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  The cruise line also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel."  Royal Caribbean also congratulated its security department for assisting in the investigation which led to the arrest of the alleged killer.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Mexico Por Esto is reporting that the parents of Mr. Torres are complaining that their son had been falsely accused of the crime and allegedly intimidated into a confession.  Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczThey claim that he had never been in trouble before and he had worked at a bar near the cruise pier for the past eight years.  They claim that because they are a humble family of little means, their son was railroaded into a confession.  Friends and family members picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent.   

There are several Mexican newspapers indicating that Mr. Torres gave different statements to the police, initially stating that he did not know Ms. Markiewicz and had never seen her, or that they had walked together to a location and he left after she resisted his advances, or that she had slipped and then he hit her with a rock to end her suffering.   

 

Photo credits:    Por Esto newspaper

Another Royal Caribbean Death In Cozumel

The AP is reporting that a second person has died after arriving in Cozumel on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship last Friday, February 4, 2011.  We previously reported on the death of Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, whose body was recovered Saturday from the sea off of Cozumel and is believed to be the victim of foul play.

The AP reports that a 24-year-old American tourist died Monday in a Cancun hospital from internal bleeding "after ingesting a safety pin that punctured her organs."

Samantha Page (Paige) ThomasThe state prosecutor in Quintana Roo, where both Cancun and Cozumel are located, apparently released two different names for the woman neither of which were released by the AP.  The prosecutor also released information regarding the dead woman's medical history and autopsy findings.  A patient apparently has no medical privacy rights in Mexico.

The passenger's death is apparently completely unrelated to the death of crew member Ms. Markiewicz.

We have reported on six deaths of Royal Caribbean passengers and crew members in the last 10 days.

February 9, 2011 Update:  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas (this article confuses the name of the cruise passenger and crew member).  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Paige as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.

Holland America Lines Passenger Killed while Snorkeling in Belize

7 New Belize reports that a cruise passenger died yesterday while snorkeling in Belize's waters.  American tourist, Diana Mechling, age 59, was reportedly snorkeling at Goff's Caye in Belize when she was struck by the propeller of a catamaran.

The newspaper in Belize indicates that Ms. Mechling was treated at Belize Medical Associates where she died.  According to a representative of Holland America's agent in Belize, Cruise Solutions, the passenger was on a snorkel excursion tour when she was injured. 

Belize - Cruise Ship Paradise?Ms. Mechling was in Belize on Holland America Line's Ryndam cruise ship.  Cruise lines like HAL are legally responsible for investigating the excursion companies with which they do business and making certain that the tour companies have adequate safety rules and regulations for the protection of the cruise passengers.  

The newspaper states: "apart from being a terrible personal tragedy for Mrs. Mechling's family, It is a huge black eye for an already suffering cruise industry - and major fallout is expected."

There have been numerous unsettling stories about the cruise industry coming out of Belize recently.  7 News Belize reported  on a  21 year old cruise passenger who went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship in Belize waters last month.  The story has received no coverage in the U.S., even though the cruise line is based here in Miami and the deceased passenger's family retained counsel in Miami. 

7 News Belize also published an incredible article providing insight into the dispute between cruise giant Carnival and the local tender boat operators in Belize.   

The country of Belize is also the location of a struggle between another cruise giant Royal Diana MechlingCaribbean, which is looking to expand its operations, and the small village of Placencia which is fighting to keep the cruise line out.   

February 4, 2011 Update:

The local news stations in Belize, 7 News Belize and Channel Five Belize, are continuing to report on the investigation into this incident. 

February 8, 2011 Update:

Ms. Mechling's funeral in Westerville Ohio is on Friday, February 11, 2011. 

Her orbituary can be viewed here.

February 9, 2011 Update:

7 News Belize reports that the Port Authority Belize "has concluded its investigation into matter and found that the Captain of the boat Reef Rocket, Martine Manuel Pariente was negligent.

According to a release from the authority, around 1:30 pm last Wednesday, Mechling was in a group of tourists that was getting off the Reef Rocket when she got entangled in one of the boat's propellers and received a large cut wound to the lower pelvic and thigh area.

We note that this differs from the police account which last week said that she somehow ended up snorkeling under the vessel.

But based on its finding The Port Authority has decided to charge 55 year old Pariente with negligently causing loss of life, and has suspended his captain's license. The Reef Rocket has been prohibited from sailing pending further inquiries."

October 21, 2011 Update:  Mr. Mechling filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Holland America and Cruise Solutions Belize in Seattle, Washington.

Royal Caribbean Sued for Passenger Death on Storm Tossed Brilliance of the Seas

The Scottish and British press are reporting on a lawsuit filed (or to be filed) against Royal Caribbean following the death passenger who was thrown about her cabin during the December 14, 2010 storm and lapsed into a coma.  Barbara Davey, age 56, was cruising on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas when the cruise ship failed to make port in Alexandria before a storm hit the ship.

One article: "Passenger Dies after Cruise Ship Sails into 80mph Storm" mentions that the passenger died from what is described as a "brain ­hemorrhage" after the cruise ship was hit by a ­Brilliance of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Cruise ship"horrific 80 mph storm."

In another article, the passenger's husband, John Davey, describes the ordeal as follows: "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt. When the storm calmed, the ship's interior was smashed to pieces . . .  Three days later, she lapsed into unconsciousness before my eyes, fell into a coma, and never woke up."  Her husband recently made the difficult decision to remove his wife from life support.

We have written a number of article about the poor seamanship and the cruise line's effort to down play the incident:

Ferocious Storm Batters Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Calls on "Captain Hollywood" to the Rescue Following the Latest Brilliance of the Seas Debacle

Will Royal Caribbean Release CCTV Video of the Brilliance of the Seas During the Storm?

 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Royal Caribbean plays hardball:  Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

 

Photo credit:  anspics Flickr page

Three Year Old Child From Holland America Line's Zuiderdam Drowns in Half Moon Cay

A Christmas cruise ended in tragedy when a three year old girl from Holland America Line's Zuiderdam cruise ship reportedly drowned in HAL's private destination Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.   The incident occurred on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, according to a newspaper in the Bahamas.

Passenger Dies Following Fall While Disembarking Princess Cruise Ship in Bonaire

Emerald Princess - Passenger DeathA newspaper in Connecticut is reporting that a 59 year old passenger fell while disembarking a Princess cruise ship in a Caribbean port and injured his neck.  After being flown by air ambulance to Miami, the passengers died due to complications during surgery.

The incident occurred on December 14, 2010, when Timothy Scheibel sailed with his wife to the island of Bonaire on a cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises of Santa Clarita, California.  Although the name of the cruise ship is not revealed, it appears that the Scheibels were sailing aboard the Emerald Princess.

This is the third death this week involving passengers falling on or from cruise ships, one yesterday involving the MSC Orchestra and one last weekend involving the Sea Princess.

The Scheibels resided in a retirement / golf community in central Florida called "The Villages," having relocated from Connecticut to Florida in 2004.  Mr. Scheibel worked as a financial adviser. The cruise was to celebrate Mr. Scheibels' 60th birthday.

December 23, 2010 Update:

We received a comment (below) from Princess Cruises indicating that the passenger fell "ashore in Bonaire," not while disembarking the cruise ship.  The story we linked to above reports that the accident occurred "while stepping off a cruise ship . . . while the ship was docked at the island of Bonaire . . . "   We apologize for the erroneous information if the accident occurred ashore as Princess clarifies. 

 

Photo credit:  Cruise Critic (cherylandtk)

19 Year Old Passenger Dies After Going Overboard From The MSC Orchestra

A newspaper in Brazil is reporting that a young man, age 19, died after "falling" from the MSC Orchestra  cruise ship, anchored in Ilhabela, in the northern coast of São Paulo in the early morning hours today.  The Federal Police of San Sebastian is investigating the incident.

MSC Orchestra Overboard - Passenger Death in Brazil Although MSC Cruises released a statement that it will wait for an official report, the cruise line is already blaming the passenger. 

In a statement to the press, MSC Cruises said that it regretted the incident with the guest, but added that "Initial reports state that the victim acted recklessly, putting themselves in a situation of high risk and dangerousness."   There is a reference in the cruise line statement to the passenger being in a "banned" location on the cruise ship.

The fall apparently was from the 14th deck  of the ship. "He was rescued from the sea, but succumbed to his injuries and died, " the statement said.

The company said it took "all necessary action and is providing full support and solidarity to the family."

Where you on the cruise and have information to share?  Please leave a comment.

 

Photo credit:   Flickr phototouring

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Found Dead on Oasis of the Seas

A Royal Caribbean crew member was found dead in his cabin on the mega-ship Oasis of the Seas on November 26th.  A local television station in Miami, CBS-4, identifies the crew member as a cook.

 According to a statement from the cruise line, the crew member is a 33-year old Jamaican man. 

"As is our standard procedure, both the FBI and local law enforcement were notified and responding to the ship on Saturday when it arrived at Port Everglades."

Oasis of the seas - Death - Crew member - Royal CaribbeanThis is the second death of a crew member aboard the Oasis of the Seas this year.   In May, 45 year old Dillon Roache, of St. Vincent, jumped overboard in an apparent suicide. 

Royal Caribbean has experienced a high number of crew members deaths this year. In May we reported on Royal Caribbean crew member Satianand (Satyanand) Buddaru who disappeared from the Explorer of the Seas -  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  In March a crew member employed by Park West Gallery jumped overboard from the Radiance of the Seas.  Our stories about the incident are available here: "Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas and here Master of Radiance of the Seas Praised for Rapid Response to Crew Overboard.   On New Year's Eve Royal Caribbean crew member Neha Chhikara jumped from the Monarch of the Seas

It is currently unknown whether this incident involved a death by natural causes (highly unusual with a 33 year old man), a suicide or foul play.

If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below.  

Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?

Inconsistent information is emerging regarding the death of a passenger aboard the Liberty cruise ship operated by Carnival cruise line.

On  November 20th we wrote about the Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship based on information from a local news station in Miami - WSVN -7.  After posting our article, we received a number of comments from passengers on the cruise indicating that the FBI treated the cabin as a crime scene.  Some passengers conveyed disturbing information, suggesting that the passenger may have been beaten and murdered.

No one other than the Miami Herald initially covered the story.  Unfortunately, the Miami Herald, a friend of the cruise industry, is known for looking the other way when things go wrong on Miami-based cruise Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Death - Murder - Fun Shipsships. Its skimpy article regarding the death involves little more than a quote from Carnival's PR department:  Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in a statement that "evidence suggests [the death] was medical related. In respect to the privacy of our guests, we are not able to release specifics on the nature of the medical condition.''

Some of the passengers are critical of the lack of basic information released by Carnival.  Its official statement that the death was "medical related" (aren't all deaths medically related?) raises more questions than provides answers. There are plenty of ways a cruise line can release information about shipboard incidents without violating an individual's privacy rights. 

The issue of the cruise industry's lack of transparency has been a topic of Congressional inquiry over the last five years, and cases like this one make it look like the cruise line has something to hide.  One of the readers of our blog, "Tomm," left the following comment:

".  .  .  do Carnival spokespeople think that we are ignorant? The FBI does not show up to medical crime scenes and stay there ALL day and then take bags of evidence with them as they leave. I have video of it that I will download Tuesday for others to see. I know things will happen when thousands of people are gathered but let's get some regulations passed so Marshalls are on board and people can have access to information.

Was this a violent crime, or a death due to a medical condition as Carnival wants everyone to believe?  Home of the "fun ships," Canival does not like publicity like this and wants everyone to forget about it.

Let's hope that other passengers and crew member on the cruise can provide additional information regarding this incident. 

If you have information, please leave a comment below.

November 24 Update:

A reader of Cruise Law News, Tomm, posted his video of what looks like eight FBI agents leaving the cruise ship in St. Thomas, taking with them bags of evidence.  The video is below. 

 

 

Photo credit:  Fodors

Video credit:  PTOMM100  Youtube

Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Passenger DeathWSVN -7 NEWS (Miami) is reporting that a cruise ship returned to South Florida after a tragedy at sea.

A 36 year old passenger aboard the Carnival Liberty cruise ship sailing to St. Thomas was discovered by another passenger unconscious in her cabin. WSVN reports that the passenger received medical attention on the cruise ship, but she was pronounced dead two hours later.

The FBI is investigating the passenger's death and is awaiting the autopsy report. "It could be a possible homicide. It could be some other factor in the death of this individual, but we're still investigating this case at this time," said Harry Rodriguez of the FBI in San Juan.

There have been a number of passenger deaths on Carnival cruise ships in the last year.  We previously reported on the death of a Carnival passenger last July aboard Carnival's Elation cruise ship.  Robert John McGill was charged with the first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley, who was beaten and strangled in their cabin.  Our article is entitled " Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case."  In February, a 32 year old female passenger, Kipi Holcomb, was found dead in her cabin aboard Carnival's Ecstasy.  The FBI indicated that there was no evidence of foul play and a toxicology report revealed that the pasenger's blood-alcohol level was .27 and she had cocaine in her system.

Were you a passenger on this cruise?  Do you have information to share?  Please leave a comment below.

November 22 Update:

Passengers are leaving some gruesome comments (below) suggesting that the death involved a homicide.  However, the Miami Herald states today: 

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in a statement that "evidence suggests [the death] was medical related. In respect to the privacy of our guests, we are not able to release specifics on the nature of the medical condition."

November 23 Update:

For additional info, please go to: Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?

Passenger Death On Norwegian Cruises Lines' Epic Forces Cruise Ship's Return To Miami

The Miami Herald and CBS-4 are reporting that the NCL Epic cruise ship returned to port in Miami late last night shortly after leaving on a Caribbean cruise due to a medical emergency involving a passenger. 

The Miami Herald's article "Emergency Forces Cruise Ship's Return to Miami - Passenger May Have Died" stops short of stating that the passenger died.  But numerous on line sources are indicating that the emergency involved a passenger death. 

NCL Epic - Norwegian Cruise Line Epic - Cruise DeathThe newspaper's story is based on comments posted on what is described as a "popular cruising website" (probably  CruiseCritic.com).  The comments apparently suggest that a 21 year old passenger may have died due to an allergic reaction to something he ate.  A number of police officers boarded the cruise ship when it returned to port in Miami, and there is alot of speculation about what happened.   

There has been no information released by NCL, which adds to the speculation.  This cruise line public relations contacts are Susan Robison, vice president, corporate communications & media promotions (305) 436-4762 srobison@ncl.com, and AnneMarie Mathews, director, public relations (305) 436-4799 amathews@ncl.com.  

And its vice president of sales and passenger services, Andy Stuart, is a regular on Twitter @nclandy and tweeted non stop when the Epic made its inaugural voyage a few months ago. 

Cruise lines like NCL lose alot of credibility when the only time you hear from them is when they are selling cruises and they disappear when trouble strikes.  

Update:

A travel agent and blogger's website Chris Cruises has the following statement from NCL:

“After setting sail on a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise yesterday at approximately 4 pm, Norwegian Epic returned to the Port of Miami at approximately 12:45 am for a medical disembarkation. While the ship was approximately 40 nautical miles from Miami, a guest on board suffered a heart attack and passed away. All local authorities were notified and some met the ship upon arrival. The ship departed at approximately 2:45 am. Norwegian Cruise Line extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the guest’s family during this difficult time.”

Although the official NCL statement references a "heart attack," the FBI stated that the passenger had an allergic reaction to food.

A passenger on the cruise left a comment below that the passengers ate peanuts in a cookie.

The comments regarding the incident at Cruise Critic are here.   

The passenger has been identified as Kevin Edouard of Spring Valley, New York.

August 20 2010 Update:

A news station in Tampa reports that NCL confirmed that Mr. Edouard suffered a severe allergic reaction to peanuts: "Epic Passenger's Allergy Believed to be Peanut." 

August 23, 2010 update:

Passengers on the cruise are commenting that another passenger died and a brawl broke out during the cruise.    

Please leave a comment below if you are on the cruise or have information about what happened.

 

The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss

I instantly took a liking to Jamie Barnett when I first met her.  

In 2007, Jamie traveled to Fort Lauderdale to attend a meeting between the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") and the cruise industry trade association, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA").  Jamie had flown in from Los Angeles for the meeting.

Jamie Barnett - Ashley Barnett - Living Through the LossJamie, a Mississippi-native-turned-L.A.-resident, traveled to Florida as part of the ICV group to convince the cruise industry to agree to safety measures to protect passengers sailing on cruise ships.

You see, Jamie's daughter, Ashley, died on a Carnival cruise in 2005.  Her story is on the ICV's web page - "What Happened to My Daughter?"  Jamie's daughter, beautiful Ashley, was a happy, vibrant young woman when she boarded the cruise ship.  A day later she was dead and alone in a morgue in Mexico. 

Tragedies like this can destroy most folks.  But Jamie has been a force to be reckoned with, as they say.  She took Carnival on for the medical negligence of their medical staff.  Although she can't talk about it because of a confidentiality order - she made the cruise line pay because of their medical malfeasance.

But lawsuits can accomplish only so much.  Compensation and a pound of flesh if you are lucky.  The real battle is fought and won by moving past the lawsuit and investing your energies to protect others.  Like, as Jamie has done, forcing the cruise industry to implement steps to protect the next Ashley Barnett who steps on a cruise ship. 

Jamie's story is told on CBS' 48 Hours Mystery - Dark Waters.  Jamie explains how the loss of Ashley motivates her to protect other moms who kids may sail on the next cruise from hell.  What you will see, hear and feel watching this seven minute segment should provide you with some insight into Jamie's passion - it is quite overwhelming.

Ashley Barnett  Jamie meets with the mother of George Smith IV, who suffered a similar tragedy three months before Ashley's death when she lost her son during a cruise.  The grief of these parents brings meaning to those who crusade for safer cruises. 

Jamie is now the President of the New York chapter of the ICV.  Unlike the cruise industry employees who slog through a 9 - 5 job promoting the business of cruising, Jamie and others in the victim's organization, who have lost children on cruises, live and breathe the urgent need to improve the cruise industry 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  And they will do so for the rest of their lives. 

Jamie's dedication led to the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which will protect millions of passengers who climb aboard cruise ships each year.  The new cruise safety law will be signed by President Obama in the next few days.  

Jamie has a blog, called "Living Through the Loss," which is a very personal expression of Jamie's struggle facing the horror of losing her daughter while finding strength in the process to help others.

Last week, Jamie attended a reception in the Capital Building in Washington to celebrate the passing of the new cruise safety law.  The reception was attended by members of the ICV, Congressional leaders, and the media.  Jamie shares her fight for the new law over the past four years in the video below:  

 

 

Another video by Jamie on behalf of the International Cruise Victims is available here.

 

Credits:

Mom and daughter           Jamie Barnett

Ashley Barnett                    CBS 48 Hours

Video                                    Jamie Barnett

The Death of George Allen Smith IV - Five Years Later

Five years ago yesterday, George Smith IV (below with his dad, George Smith III) disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship between Greece and Turkey.  This was a terrible, terrible night, which filled the public's imagination with speculation about what happened, night after night on the cable news programs. 

Behind the news, families grieved with hearts filled with heartbreak and sorrow.   

George Smith - Royal Caribbean Cruise  Mr. Smith's newly-wed bride, Jennifer Hagel, retained me to represent the interests of George's estate against Royal Caribbean.  I was tasked with trying to find out what happened and to hold those responsible for George's death accountable.  

I did the best I could, between a recalcitrant corporate-felon-of-a-cruise-line and families engulfed in grief.    

We reached an agreement that Royal Caribbean would pay $1,060,000 and reveal all of its investigation materials regarding George's death.   

This was the best result which could be obtained.  There is no doubt abut this, especially after 5 years of retrospection.  

There existed many obstacles in this case. There is an international treaty which exists called the Athens Convention which, if found applicable, would limit the cruise liability's liability to only around $70,000.  Not to mention the wicked "Death On The High Seas Act" which precludes damages other than financial compensation.  $1,060,000 and a disclosure of information by the cruise line was a great resolution, notwithstanding such a terrible loss of a young man's life.

But the Smith family (photo below right) has fought at every turn, to appeal the  probate court decision in their own home town affirming the decision in Jennifer's favor. 

Today, the news is filled  with the deaths of young men killed on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig, whose destroyed lives have all been calculated, by the calculus of wrongful death, to be less than $1,000,000 because of the soulless DOHSA law.  And these men were working when their lives were taken, with no hint that they were negligent for drinking or poor judgment or any fault of their own.  They were blown up by the malfeasance of the rig owner and operators.    

George Smith - Jennifer Hagel - Royal Caribbean CruiseYesterday, the Connecticut Post published a story about George's disappearance and the issues left unresolved following his death. 

You can read about the dreams of young George taking over his father's Cos Cob Liquor Store, juxtaposed with George's alleged abuse of alcohol and misuse of prescription drugs during the ill fated cruise.

This is a sad story.  There is no winner. The families are estranged.  The cruise line, Royal Caribbean, cares not a whit.  Can the Smith family move on from this debacle? 

Over the last five years, my wife and I have celebrated 10 birthdays of our two sons who are now 13 and 15 years old.  My boys have grown from third and fifth grade kids to young men entering eighth and tenth grade, over the course of the Smith familiy's nightmare. 

There is not a day that goes by that I forget how blessed I am to have my boys alive and healthy, and my family intact.

 

Credits:

Photographs    Greenwich Time

Congress Amends Death On High Seas Act Over Cruise Industry's Objections

John Conyers - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipToday, the House of Representatives passed a bill - H.R. 5503 (also known as the SPILL Act)  - which will amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).  H.R. 5503 will permit the widows and children of the oil rig workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to be compensated for their grief, mental anguish and suffering due to the deaths of their husbands and fathers.       

The bill was passed in the House today due to the efforts of the families of the 11 workers who died when the drilling rig exploded two months ago.  The families targeted their efforts on the obscure DOHSA law which does not recognize the suffering of children and spouses who lose loved ones on the high seas. 

The bill was introduced by Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, who chairs the BP - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipsU.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

We have reported on the sad death of oil worker Gordon Jones, who left behind a pregnant and loving wife and a young son, and the extraordinary efforts of his father who lobbied to change this unfavorable law. 

BP fought against the families.  So did the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who lobbied behind the scenes to try and keep the oil rig wives and children from receiving compensation.

The amendment to DOHSA is also needed for families who have lost loved ones on cruises ships.  Hundreds of passengers have died on cruise ships due to the negligence of the cruise lines.   

Yesterday, we reported on the unconscionable efforts of CLIA.  We posted a letter which CLIA sent to legislators to oppose the efforts of the grieving families suffering from the BP explosion.   

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActToday, the bad guys - BP, Transocean and the cruise lines - lost.  The good guys won.

But the law still needs to be passed in the Senate.  BP, Transocean, and CLIA will be back - like vultures - to walk the halls of our Senate.  Bad companies like this will try and keep this much needed reform of DOHSA from being enacted into law.  

 

 

For additional information about DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

As we suspected, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is working behind the scenes to derail efforts to amend the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Yesterday we obtained a copy of a letter (below) sent by CLIA to Congressional representatives in Florida.  CLIA is trying to rally opposition against H.R. 5503 which will permit widows and children recover compensation for their grief and emotional suffering when they lose their spouse / parent.     

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act  This is nothing new for CLIA, which has spent millions of dollars lobbying against reforms to this archaic law enacted back in 1920.

As we have stated in many articles about DOHSA, a cruise ship is the only location where a child or retired, elderly passenger can be killed and considered worthless in the eyes of the law.   

CLIA says it has no objection to "addressing" (whatever that means) the issue of compensation for the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, yet it will not even commit to repealing DOHSA for these families.

CLIA claims that it opposes amending DOHSA because it will provide a remedy to "foreign workers."  The irony of such an outlandish and xenophobic comment is immediately obvious - all cruise lines are "foreign" entities, incorporated in "foreign" countries like Liberia (Royal Caribbean) or Panama (Carnival) for the singular purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes.  These "foreign"' corporations then flag their cruise ships in "foreign" countries to escape U.S. labor laws and safety regulations.

So why should the foreign flagged cruise industry be permitted to collect $35,000,000,000 ($ billion!) a year from U.S. taxpayers and avoid all U.S. taxes because of its "foreign" status, and then argue that families of dead "foreign" crew members should not be reasonably compensated when their loves ones die due to the negligence of the cruise lines?

The cruise industry is built on the backs of hundred of thousands of "foreign" crew members, many of who work 360 hours a month for only $545.  Their families are entitled to be compensated when their family members die due to the legal fault of the multi-billion dollar CLIA cruise lines?  Take a look at this letter which CLIA hoped would never be published:      

          CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas act

 

CLIA fails to mention that the vast majority of people who die on cruise are Americans!  As matters now stand, the lives of stay-at-home-parents, children, elderly and retired people, and gay men and women who die at sea with no dependents have no value under DOHSA.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has been battling CLIA for years to amend DOHSA.  But CLIA pays millions of dollars to lobby Congress each year, whereas the ICV is penniless and is comprised of only volunteers.  Mother Jones addresses the disparity between CLIA and the ICV in an article "Love Boat Lobby Fights BP Victims." 

Below is a partial list of the loved ones of ICV members who were denied compensation because of DOHSA.  This is just a small number of the hundreds of loved ones who die on cruise ships each year.  

Why should victims of the BP explosion and hundreds of U.S. citizens be denied compensation because of CLIA's heartless and mean-spirited decision to deny compensation to "foreign" crew members?

Does CLIA tell the crew members their lives are of no value?

Do the 16,000 travel agents who comprise CLIA know that its trade organization doesn't care about foreign crew members, U.S. children and retirees who die at sea on cruise?

Travel agents -  when you sell your client cruises, do you tell that if they die due to the negligence of the cruise lines, their lives are of no value?   And do you tell them CLIA is lobbying Congress to make certain that the law stays that way?   

Disgusted by the cruise industry's heartless attitude?  Do something about it.  Support H.R. 5503.  Call your Congressman or Congresswoman.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. 

ICV - International Cruise Victims - DOSHA - Death On High Seas Act

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?

The death of eleven oil rig workers on the Deepwater Horizon has sparked a debate in Congress about repealing the antiquated and inequitable statute, the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).  This old law dating back to 1920 does not permit surviving wives and children compensation for their grief and bereavement when they lose a loved one on the high seas whether on a oil rig or cruise ship.

BP Deepwater Horizon - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActBP and Cruise Lines Connected At The Hip Pocket?

Recently, there have been a number of articles that discuss DOHSA and reveal that the cruise industry will be joining forces with BP to repel any efforts of the grieving family members to repeal DOHSA.  Mother Jones pointed out in "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP" explaining that the cruise lines have consistently fought against families trying to change DOSHA.

And AOL's Daily Finance even covered the issue with an interesting article "The Death On The High Seas act Needs Fixing - Just Ask  BP's Widows."  This article points out that prior efforts to reform DOHSA were "sunk" by the vociferous cruise industry's "lobbying muscle" - probably to avoid paying any compensation to the 34 passengers who were lost overboard during cruises from 2003 - 2007 according to an article "Death On The High Seas" in the Guardian newspaper.  

Should Al Qaeda And Terrorist States Be Protected By DOHSA Too? 

But the harsh effects of DOHSA are not limited to the grieving families of cruise victims and dead oil workers. 

Al Qaeda - U.S.S. Cole - Terrorism - DOHSA The families of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen learned about DOHSA when Al Qaeda terrorists killed their loved ones on the U.S.S. Cole.  17 men and women were brutally murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship.  56 family members filed suit against the government of Sudan for sponsoring the terrorist organization.  

A Federal District Judge applied DOHSA because the deaths occurred outside of U.S. territorial waters.  He dismissed the claims of 22 of the family members and limited the recovery of the rest to strictly lost wages.  Not one child or surviving spouse received a penny for the mental anguish and misery caused by the horrific criminal act of the terrorists and the complicit renegade country.

The inequity of DOHSA was not lost on the Judge who commented in Rux v. Republic of Sudan, 495 F.Supp.2d 541(E.D. Va. 2007) :

The court sympathizes greatly with plaintiffs, who continue to suffer terribly years after their loved ones died. But the court is bound to follow the legal precedent before it. Congress makes the laws; courts merely interpret them. Whether to amend DOHSA to allow more liberal recovery in cases of death caused by terrorism on the high seas . . is a question for Congress alone.         

Its Time to Act - Repeal the Death On The High Seas Act  

There is a Facebook page created for the families of  the oil workers killed in the BP explosion.  Please click on the link, leave a word of support, and contact your representative in Congress.

As your senator "why should BP, foreign flagged cruise lines and Al Qaeda be protected by DOHSA?"

 

For additional information, please consider reading:

Scranton Time Tribune: "Amend Law On Deaths At Sea"

Cruise Law News: 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon         U.S. Coast Guard

 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Gordon Jones has been in the news lately.  Have you heard of him?

Probably not. 

But you all have heard of the companies that killed him:  Oil giant BP, and Transocean - the operator of the foreign flagged drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon.

Gordon Jones - Death On The High Seas Act - DOHSA - BPGordon was just 28 years old when he died on April 20th.  He left a pregnant wife and child behind. His Facebook page lists his favorite movies as Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  So you know he had a great sense of humor.

But his family will never hear his laughter again.

Gordon Jones' death focuses the public on an injustice which has plagued Americans for ninety years.  Under an archaic law passed in 1920 called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), his wife cannot be compensated for her sadness, suffering and grief.  His children will grow up without a father due to BP's malfeasance.  But they cannot be compensated for the loss of their dad's love, nurture and guidance. 

The law will not permit it. 

DOHSA prohibits the grieving Jones family from recovering any compensation except the wages earned or to be earned by their father and husband. We have written about this inequitable archaic law before - "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Gordon Jones's story was recently covered in an article in Mother Jones - "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

Today, CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP."  The article was written by Gordon's father, Louisiana lawyer Keith Jones, who is interviewed by Larry King in the video below.

Gordon Jones and son Mr. Jones' emotional grief over losing his son is overwhelming.  But he is objective while explaining that DOHSA's prohibition against compensating his daughter-in-law and grandchildren is as illogical as it is unfair.  He is taking steps to repeal DOHSA.  Due to Mr. Jones' efforts, the Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 3463  introduced by Senator Leahey, and House Resolution 5503 by John Conyers) to repeal DOHSA. Both bills will permit damages for the surviving family members' loss of care, company and companionship - rather than just the dead man's earnings.    

As the CNN article points out, foreign flagged cruise ships - and foreign flagged drilling rigs - love DOHSA.  These industries and their lobbyists will dig in and fight the efforts to change the law, as Gordon's father point out in the CNN article:

"Support for these bills is growing, but we expect opposition from all the companies who don't want to pay fair compensation when, by their fault, someone on board their vessel is killed.  Cruise lines have consistently opposed changes to DOHSA.  Many of their passengers are, because of their youth or advanced age, not providing financial support to anyone.  If a cruise ship crew member negligently kills one of these passengers, the cruise line is liable for funeral expenses and nothing more. All companies involved in offshore drilling and shipping have been vigorously opposed to changes in DOHSA."  

Travel agents, cruise specialists, and cruise fans reading this - is this what you wish to support?   Your trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), pays lobbyists millions to walk the halls of Congress and lobby against changing DOHSA.  They want to make certain that the families of good, hard working people like Gordon Jones receive nothing for their grief, pain and suffering when they lose a loved on the high seas.

Don't let reckless corporations ruin our environment and people's lives and get away with it.

Do you want to help?  Call us.  Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman.  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.  Do something, now.

 

 

Credits:

Photograph of Gordon Jones family      CNN

Photograph of Gordon Jones and son    Gordon Jones Facebook

Video      Larry King Live

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

Mother Jones published an interesting article this morning by  Stephanie Mencimer, "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work?" about how the cruise line lobbyists may join forces with BP to help the oil company dodge liability for the eleven workers killed on the Transocean drilling rig.

BP - Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig - DOSHAYou see the drilling rig is considered to be a vessel for purposes of maritime law.  And when an employee (or passenger) is killed on a vessel in international waters, the case is governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA).  

Enacted in 1920, DOHSA prohibits the families of loved ones lost at sea to recover any compensation for their grief, sadness and bereavement or their children's loss of love, nurture and guidance.  We have written about this outdated and inequitable law before: "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."  The cruise industry and its trade organization spend millions each year lobbying against efforts to repeal DOHSA.

So when the BP oil well exploded and killed the oil workers, the lawyers for BP undoubtedly began to educate their negligent client that liability for the dead men would be limited under DOHSA solely to the wages they earned.  There is no liability for the dead men's pain and suffering after they were burned and lay dying, or their fear of imminent death, or the mental anguish and suffering of their wives and children.     

Mother Jones points out that one of the rig workers who was killed was single and childless. That means his family would only be entitled to recover funeral expenses under DOHSA.  But because his body was never found after the rig blew up, there is nothing to bury.  BP could get away with paying as little as $1,000 for his death. 

There are representatives in Congress, including Senator Leahy, who will introduce legislation to repeal DOHSA so that families of the oil workers are reasonably compensated.  But the article predicts that:    

"There’s another powerful industry with an interest in doing BP's dirty work to preserve the status quo. That would be cruise line operators - and when it comes to Beltway battles, the Son Michael Pham - Death On High Seas Actcruise lobby is no Love Boat."

The article addressed the sad story of Son Michael Pham (photo right), the vice president of the International Cruise Victims Association. (Mr. Pham is the founder of the non-profit organization Kids Without Borders).

As the article explains: "In 2005, his parents went on a Caribbean cruise and never came back. Carnival Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise operators, never offered any explanation for what had happened, and has refused to discuss the incident with Pham and his family since then. That was how Pham discovered the horrible divide in the way the law treats people killed through negligence at sea. "We couldn't take legal action to get justice," he says. Long before the BP explosion, his group was lobbying Congress for DOHSA to be overhauled . . .

Finally, in 2009, the cruise ship victims succeeded in getting legislation introduced with help from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would have updated DOHSA in just the way Leahy has proposed. That change would have allowed families of cruise ship victims to sue for non-economic damages - a huge deal for cruise-goers, because so many are retired and have no salaries that would provide the basis of a legal award under the current law . . .

Mr. Hue Pham - Mrs. Hue Tran - DOHSABut the cruise industry spent $2.2 million fighting these changes. The Carnival cruise line company alone has donated more than $400,000 since 2007 to members of Congress from both parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The offending provision was eventually removed from the cruise-ship safety bill.

The Cruise Lines International Association did not return requests for comment. But Pham says he has no doubt that the DOHSA revision will not slip by without the lobbyists’ notice. "Cruise lines absolutely didn’t want DOHSA to be part of that [2009 bill] at all," he says, noting that the industry would suddenly become liable for all sorts of incidents that it's currently able to dodge legal responsibility for - everything from on-board murders to rapes to mysterious disappearances like that of Pham’s parents. "It’s an industry that self-polices. When there’s an incident on board, there’s nobody but themselves investigating themselves. You're not going to turn yourself in."

 

What do you think of DOHSA?  Please leave a comment below. 

Are you a travel agent or cruise specialists who is a member of CLIA?  Do you think that CLIA should spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to make certain that families on cruise ships lose their rights under DOHSA? 

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon Explosion          U.S. Coast Guard

Medical Examiner Concudes Passenger Died of Drug Overdose on Carnival Ecstasy

The Galveston County Daily News reports today that the medical examiner concluded that Carnival cruise passenger Kipi Holcomb died of a drug overdose. 

As we mentioned in prior articles, on February 15, 2010 Ms. Holcomb was found in her cabin aboard Carnival's Ecstasy cruise ship after sailing from port in Galveston.

The FBI previously indicated that there was no evidence of foul play.  The medical examiner also found no signs of trauma. 

The toxicology report revealed Ms. Holcomb’s blood-alcohol level was .27 and she had cocaine  and THC (an ingredient in marijuana) in her system.

Prosecution Drops Manslaughter Charge In Dianne Brimble Case - Trial Over

In a stunning and unexpected end to the trial involving the death of P and O Cruises passenger Dianne Brimble, the prosecution dropped a manslaughter charge against fellow cruise passenger Mark Wilhelm.

Australia's Herald Sun reports that Wilhelm pled guilty to supplying the date rape drug GHB to Ms. Brimble in exchange for being released from the manslaughter charge.

Mark Wilhelm - Dianne BrimbleLast year, a jury reached a split decision.  The jury found that Wilhelm gave Ms. Brimble the drugs which led to her death, but it could not reach a decision on the manslaughter charges.  This led to a hung jury and a decision to re-try the case.   

After the plea agreement was announced, the Brimble family had to endure a lecture by the presiding trial judge.  Justice Roderick Howe stated that although defendant Wilhelm may have been "technically and morally responsible" for Dianne Brimble's cruise ship death, and his behavior may have been "bad, loutish or even insensitive,'' he was not legally responsible for manslaughter. 

The judge then made a number of rather gratuitous comments, criticizing what he characterized as the "prejudice" and "hysteria'' surrounding the death and ensuing events - adding that Wilhelm had been subjected to "rumors, misinformation, supposition and conjecture."

We have written many articles about Ms. Brimble and the outlandish conduct of Mr. Wilhelm and the seven men who cruised with him.  The judge's comments are off the mark as well as being insensitive and disrespectful to the Brimble family.     

Ms. Brimble's family expressed their frustration with the the decision to drop the manslaughter charge.  The Brisbane Times reports that Ms. Brimble's family will seek to reopen the investigation into her death. 

According to the newspapers, Ms. Brimble's former husband, Mark Brimble, said "We're disappointed that it ends this way .  .  .  we are frustrated with the system.''  "I want the coroner to enter into findings . . .  we need to know what has to happen to stop this ever happening to any other individual or Australian traveling on a cruise ship or on a holiday," he said.

"Dianne went on a holiday and didn't come back . . .  that should not happen to a person again."

Wilhelm will be sentenced for supplying the drugs on April 29th.

 

Credits:

Photograph        dailytelegraph.com.au

Dianne Brimble Re-Trial Begins

Newspapers in Australia are reporting that the re-trial of Mark Wilhelm, the man charged with the death of cruise passenger Dianne Brimble on the P and O cruise ship Pacific Sky, began  today,

Mark Wilhelm - Dianne Brimble - Cruise deathMs. Brimble died in Mr. Wilhelm's cabin on the P and O cruise ship seven years ago.  Ms. Brimble's death was attributable to the date rape drug, GHB ("Fantasy"), which defendant Wilhelm allegedly gave her. 

Ms. Brimble's death illustrated the raucous behavior on the P and O cruise ships, the danger of date rape drugs on ships, and the lack of accountability of the cruise lines for passenger deaths.  

We have written many articles about Dianne Brimble's death.

Last October, a jury returned with a split verdict which resulted in a mistrial.  Will the jury find criminal responsibility this time?

 

Credit:              

Photograph                 Sky News Australia

 

Princess Cruises Passenger Killed In ATV Accident In Aruba

The Diario newspaper in Aruba reports on a passenger from Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess cruise ship who died in an accident ashore in Aruba.

The unidentified passenger rented a four wheel ATV (all terrain vehicle) and collided with what the newspaper reports is a Dodge Ram pickup truck.  

ATV Accident - Aruba - Caribbean Princess Cruise ShipThe Cruise Critic website includes several comments by passengers on the cruise who saw the aftermath of the accident.

Many Cruise Critic readers commented on dangers ashore in port of call when passengers rent mopeds and ATV's and encounter different road conditions and traffic on the "other side of the road."  

The driver of the ATV was apparently not wearing a helmet.  The comments to the story seem to suggest that the ATV was rented privately, and not as part of an excursion sold by the cruise line.

Companies which rent ATV's and mopeds should require that all drivers wear helmets, and should not rent the vehicles unless the company provides a helmet to the driver.  It is unknown whether Aruba requires helmets to be warn in these situations.    

April 22, 2010 Update:

The cruise passengers involved in the accident are Frederich Norman, age 41, who was killed, and his wife Christine Norman, age 37, who was injured, according to the LondonFree Press in Canada. There is a suggestion that the pickup truck may have swerved into an oncoming lane, causing the collision with the Normans' ATV.  There is also mention of drugs being found in the truck.  These accounts appear to be based on the Diario newspaper in Aruba.

Princess Cruises PR - Julie Benson - Stringent Excursion Safety RulesThe London Free Press points to the incident as raising the issue of the questionable safety of many excursions cruise passengers may choose during their cruises. 

Princess Cruises PR person, Julie Benson (photograph right), is quoted as stating that the ATV rental was not one sanctioned by Princess Cruises. Ms. Benson claims that Princess Cruises requires a "stringent set of rules and safety measures" before recommending local companies to its cruise passengers.

In February a Princess Cruises passenger was killed and other passengers were injured when a cruise excursion bus with no seat belts, operated by a driver named "Crash Dummy" with a record which included criminal conduct and reckless driving, crashed while descending a steep hill in Tortola. 

It will be interesting to see exactly what Princess Cruises' "stringent" excursion safety rules look like.  

 

 

Credits:    

Photograph of ATV        Diario Online Newspaper

Photograph of Princess PR            Julie Benson Twitter 

 

Reason No. 5 Not To Cruise: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

This is reason no. 5 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship's negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as "DOHSA."  In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters.  So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Cruise Ship Death - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. 

Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death.  However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant.  The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child.  If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing.  This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow.  Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear.  Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters.  The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice.  In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA.  The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization ("ICV") has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises.  A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea.  The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 90 years ago.  In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 14,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the millions of retired passengers and children who cruise annually.  The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 14,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law.  Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances?  The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.

 

Tomorrow I will discuss Reason No. 6 Not To Cruise: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

 

This article was originally published last year with the title"The Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing Americans For 89 Years"

Update On Death of Royal Caribbean Crew Member Neha Chhikara

Neha Chhikara - Ankit Dalal - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship OverboardA newspaper in India is reporting that there are developments in the sad case of Neha Chhikara, who died after going overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on New Year's Eve.  Ms. Chhikara was sailing aboard the cruise ship with her husband, Ankit Dalal, who is described as working on the Monarch as a "manager" of some type.  She was about to start working as a guest relations manager.

Ms. Chhikara's family accuses Mr. Dalal and his family of abusing their daughter as part of a "dowry dispute."  She is alleged to have jumped overboard because she could not stand the physical and emotional abuse caused by her husband.  In return, the Dalal family accused their daughter-in-law of being emotionally imbalanced.  We have written many articles about the incident.

The Sify News is now reporting that a "vigilance department" in India, which is investigating the complaint of "harassment for dowry," has received a report from "U.S. officials" regarding the death.  It is less than clear who in the U.S. is investigating Ms. Chhikara's death; perhaps it is the FBI.  The newspaper mentions that the U.S. report allegedly "indicts" Mr. Dalal, at least according to the Chhikara family. 

It is also unclear why the U.S. is investigating an incident involving two Indian nationals on a foreign flagged cruise ship in international waters.  Uncertainty of who will take jurisdiction is one of the problems which families of crew members face when their loved ones disappear from cruise ships.  

Update:

The Indian Express reports that the report was a "joint report" by the the "U.S. authorities and the Bahamas government." 

The Monarch is registered in Nassau, Bahamas and the cruise ship was sailing from Nassau to CocoCay, Bahamas at the time of her disappearance overboard.  There is no information being reported now that was not contained in the initial reports of the incident.  See our report on January 1, 2010 - Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard.

 

Credits:

Photograph of Neha Chhikara and Ankit Dalal           FaceBook    

In Memory of Richard Liffridge, March 11, 1934 - March 23, 2006

Today marks the four year anniversary of the death of Richard Liffridge, who died during a vacation cruise on March 23, 2006 when the cruise ship caught fire.

Mr. Liffridge was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  After 20 years of honorable military service, he retired from the United States Air Force.  His Air Force career allowed him to travel to places he might not have otherwise seen such as France, Germany and England. He proudly served his country in the Vietnam and Korean wars.  After retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Liffridge worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a number years.  He subsequently retired and relocated to Locust Grove, GA, to realize his life long dream of retiring and enjoying the company of his family and friends.  Mr. Liffridge was a dedicated and committed member of the Masons - the oldest and largest world wide fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of man.

We represented Mr. Liffridge's children in litigation against the cruise line.  We mentioned the tragedy in a prior article:   Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything? 

Below is a collage of Mr. Liffridge growing up as a child, in the service, and married with kids.  His loved ones should remember him in happier times, with his family and the friends whose lives he enriched over the years.

Richard Liffridge

 

Ricahrd Liffridge

Tortola Tourist Board - Let Cruise Excursion Bus Story "Die Naturally"

BVI News and BVI Platinum News continue their excellent coverage of the tragic and deadly crash of the  Princess Cruises' excursion bus in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) with an article entitled "It could Have Been Worse."

PR Nightmare

The BVI Tourist Board is trying to manage the public relations nightmare of the death and multiple injuries of U.S. cruise tourists on a bus with no seat belts being driven by a bus driver with an arrest history and prior conviction record for reckless driving nicknamed "Crash Dummy."

The Director of the BVI tourist Board, Ms. Hadassah Ward (photograph below, left), is struggling with crisis management efforts following this debacle.  Ms. Ward scheduled a press conference yesterday where she announced that "it could have been worse."

Tortola Excursion Bus Accident - Princess CruisesI'm not sure I understand exactly how it "could have been worse."

A young man died needlessly on a cruise excursion, purchased by his loving parents for his birthday, because of the obvious negligence of the excursion company and cruise line which saw fit to associate itself with a substandard tour company which hired a known reckless driver nicknamed "Crash Dummy" operating a bus not suited for mountainous terrain.

Ms. Ward should have said "this should have never happened."

Instead we see Ms. Ward and her "Tourist Board" worrying about the image of her island and fretting about the press and the blogs covering the tragic story.

Muzzle the Press?

Ms. Ward announced that "one of the Board’s role is to monitor the media  . . .  to ensure accurate information is being disseminated.  Ms. Ward  also said she would monitor the "posted pictures of the accident . . . because it will be there for the next 10 to 20 years . . . "

Mr Ward is quoted as saying: "everyone is reading the blogs and newspapers… so we don’t want the information to be misconstrued where people will be affected in terms of liability . . . we need to understand that the blogs are read internationally."

She also noted that "good attitude from the Tourist Board officials" quelled any videos and photographs from being circulated online by the 16 tourists who were involved in the accident.

Ms. Ward concluded her remarks by stating "I am a great believer in letting the story die naturally . . ." 

This is the essence of tourist boards and cruise line PR people - they just want the story to go away.

Cruise Excursion - Princess Cruises - TortolaWe reported in a prior blog that this is not the first cruise bus excursion to run off the road and injure cruise passengers in Tortola - "Brake Malfunction? Defense Lawyers for Princess Cruises and Bus Driver Disagree on Cause of Tortola Excursion Accident."  Nothing was done after that disaster. 

History is repeating itself.  

Let's Be Happy & Forget about It

So we have the Tortola Tourist Board trying to puzzle the press and control the images of the tragedy for PR purposes. 

And the island and cruise line people behind the scenes just want the story to die naturally . . . 

And then what? 

Another season of substandard buses, with no seat belts, with reckless drivers . . . and another round of unsuspecting cruise passengers taking their families on the next bus driven by a "Crash Dummy"   . . .  

Comments From Tortola:

Here are some of the comments to the BVI News story that the Tortola Tourist Board is concerned with:

An accident waiting to happen is no accident. Hiring a driver with driving infractions and one of which was reckless driving to operate your tour bus is irresponsible and negligent. The owner of the tour bus too, is guilty of negligence which contributed to this vehicular homicide. Just because these tourists were given a heap of hush money as incentives not to file a lawsuit (we hope) and to keep things quiet, doesn't mean that TB should be issuing insensitive words " It could have been worse" because frankly, it could not have been worse . .

Tortola - Cruise Bus - Crash Dummy - Princess CruisesCould have been worse?? Oh it's just one life....I mean come on. You're talking about insurance and all that...I mean if we have people operating and transporting persons and they have no license to drive or no insurance to operate heir vehicles then we have a very serious flaw in the system! Don't give me that could have been worse story. With as much violations this guy should he even be driving much less responsible for transporting this many people? These are peoples lives we're talking about! 

License or no license, hiring a driver with a record of driving infractions including reckless driving, whose nickname is Crash Dummy should be good reason to revoke his license to operate a tour bus. Lackadaisical, slackness, don't care with attitude are words to describe the way business is conducted in this place from top to bottom.

March 11, 2010 Update:

Two newspaper stories from Tortola today address the efforts of the Tourist Board to assist the parents of the deceased cruise passenger, Mr. Rumphrey.  The BVI News has an article "BVITB Reports on its Efforts to Assist Family of Tourist Killed in Road Accident."  The BVIU Beacon also reports on the Tourist Board's efforts to assist the affected passengers in an article "BVITB Aids Family of Man Killed in Wreck."  Ms. Ward is quoted saying: "Yes, bad things do happen in paradise, but when they do happen, you have a support group.”

 

Credits:

Photograph of Ms. Ward         BVI News

Photographs of bus                   BVI Platinum News    

 

Did Princess Cruises Check the Driving Record of Excursion Bus Driver, Crash Dummy?

A story in the BVI Platinum's newspaper indicates that the cruise excursion bus driver Roland Allen, nick-named "Crash Dummy," had been convicted of driving offenses - including reckless driving - before the ill-fated Princess Cruises excursion bus crash. 

We suspected this, as we raised this issue in a prior article "How Did Princess Cruises Excursion Bus Driver "Crash Dummy" Earn His Nick Name? - Why Does He Have A Police Record?"

Compelling Record of Bad Driving?

In an article " Allen's License Suspended, Independent Mechanic to Examine Bus," the newspaper reveals an exchange between the bus driver's lawyer and the criminal Magistrate presiding over the matter. The lawyer for Mr. Allen pleaded the Magistrate not to suspend Mr. Allen's license.  In response, the Magistrate:

 ". . . lamented that the court was given a conviction sheet of Allen and most of the offences are road traffic offences with one being reckless driving. 'The allegations are compelling' she stated."

The newspaper also reports on a curious plea by Mr. Allen's lawyer who "told the court that tour operator is his only means of income and suspending it will deprive Allen of his livelihood."  This Tropical Forest Hike & Beach - Princess Cruises - Cancelledargument ignored the fact that the cruise line had already suspended the tour in question, the "Tropical Forest Hike and Beach" excursion, as previously reported in USA Today.  The Princess Cruises' website states: Tropical Forest Hike & Beach***Cancelled***

The Magistrate ruled that given Mr. Allen's previous convictions, "it is not wise to allow him to return behind the wheels." 

Was It Wise to Permit "Crash Dummy" Behind the Wheel In The First Place?

Cruise lines have certain legal duties to their passengers.  The cruise line must conduct an investigation into the safety procedures of the tour company and audit the tour's safety record.  This includes not only inspecting the excursion company's buses but inspecting the driving records of the tour company's drivers.  Cruise lines also have a duty to warn passengers of dangers which are known, or should be known, to the cruise line.

Princess Cruises advertises the excursion bus going to the "highest peak in the Virgin Islands."

Why did the cruise line permit a driver - known in the community of Tortola as "Crash Dummy" and reportedly convicted of reckless driving - take cruise passengers through this steep mountainous terrain?  Why didn't the cruise line warn its passengers of these dangers before charging them $59 a piece for the excursion?

 

Credits:

Tropical Forest Hike and Beach         Princess Cruises

Monster Waves Hit Louis Majesty Cruise Ship

Three 30 foot waves crashed into the Louis Majesty cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday.  Two passengers died. 

The Greece-based Louis Cruise Lines ship was north-east of Barcelona, Spain, heading east to Genoa, Italy when three "abnormal" waves struck the vessel.

The waves smashed windows in public areas.  CNN reported that the deceased passengers included a German man, 69, from North Rhine Westphalia, and an Italian man, 52, who was traveling with his family.

Fourteen others were treated aboard the cruise ship for injuries, and were hospitalized when the ship returned to Barcelona on Wednesday night.  One passenger sustained two broken legs in the incident.

 

 

The last "rogue" wave case involved Norwegian Cruise Line's Dawn cruise ship in 2005.  The NCL ship was hit by a 70 foot wave, breaking cabin windows and flooding over 60 cabins.  Another maritime lawyer in Miami sued NCL, alleging that the cruise line endangered its passengers by trying to sail through rough weather so that the cruise ship could arrive back in port in time to be filmed in Donald Trump's Apprentice television show. 

NCL denied these allegations, and a jury decided in NCL's favor. 

March 5, 2010 Update:  See updated article: President of International Cruise Victims Questions Cruise Passenger Safety - Louis Cruise Lines No Stranger to Disaster

 

TIME Magazine:  "The Cruise Ship Disaster: How Do 'Rogue Waves' Happen?"

 

 

Credit:

Video      CBS News

 

How Did Princess Cruises Excursion Bus Driver "Crash Dummy" Earn His Nick Name? - Why Does He Have A Police Record?

In an article entitled "Taxi Driver Granted $60,000 Bail - License Suspended," BVI News in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) reports that the driver of the Princess Cruises excursion bus arrested for reckless driving and causing death by reckless driving has been offered bail in the amount $60,000.  The Magistrate set bail of $25,000 cash and a $35,000 surety.

BVI citizen Roland Allen was arrested following the crash of a bus carrying cruise passengers from a Princess Cruise ship on an excursion into Tortola. The accident occurred as the cruise excursion bus was descending a very steep road called "Windy Hill Road." 

Roland Allen - Crash Dummy - Tortola - Princess CruisesThe Magistrate suspended Mr. Allen's license, pending the outcome of his trial regarding the death of cruise passenger Aaron Rumphrey who died in the crash.  

The BVI News reports that Mr. Allen's next court appearance is March 25, 2010.

"Crash Dummy" Arrested For Theft?

BVI News previously reported that the excursion bus driver is known as "Crash Dummy," a nick-name Mr. Allen apparently obtained before the fatal cruise excursion bus accident.

An online "Police Blotter" indicates that "Roland Allen of Baughers Bay" was arrested for theft in July of last year.  There are no details online available to explain the nature of the alleged theft, or how the charges were resolved. 

The comments to the online reports refer to Mr. Allen as "Crash Dummy," suggesting that Mr. Allen's reputation as a "crash dummy" existed before the terrible cruise line excursion accident. 

How Did "Crash Dummy" Earn His Nick Name?

The question remains how and when Mr. Roland earned the unenviable label of being a "crash  dummy?"  Has the cruise excursion driver been involved in other accidents?

A clue may be found in the comments of a reader of the BVI News:

"When you hire a driver that you know (or should know) is a reckless driver, he has been involved with the law several times because of his driving habits and you know that around town his name is "Crash Dummy", and you have not informed unsuspecting customers by placing a sign on the bus "Ride at your own Risk, Dangerous Driver" then you are as guilty and responsible for the outcome and should be in Balsum and your company shut down immediately. You, the driver and the BVI Government share the responsibility for this travesty and the lawsuits will be piling up, no doubt."

Why Did Princess Cruises Permit Cruise Passengers To Be Driven By "Crash Dummy?"

It is an understatement to say that it is reckless for the cruise line to herd unsuspecting cruise tourists into a bus without seat belts to be driven over a steep hill by a driver called "Crash Dummy" with a police record and apparently a history of driving violations.

Mr. Allen's driving record and police history will become a focus of investigators.  We will be discussing this outrageous situation created by Princess Cruises in our next blogs.

A Hero or Villian? 

Another newspaper in BVI, the BVI Beacan, reports that the prosecutors in Tortola intend to prove that Mr. Roland was driving recklessly.  The newspaper quotes the prosecutor saying: 

“The vehicle started to accelerate and despite efforts, the driver was unable to bring the vehicle to a stop . . .  We are claiming that his driving was reckless because he was going at a speed at which he was unable to control the vehicle . . . a loud screeching was heard from the brakes . . .  [Mr. Allen] ought to have known” about any problems with the excursion bus.

However, Mr. Allen's defense lawyer argued to the Court that when his client "started down the hill, he put the bus into second gear but realised there were no brakes. He tried pumping the brakes but the vehicle sped down the hill, not because of Mr. Allen’s actions, but because it was heavy with the tourists’ weight."

“He had no alternative but to put the bus in those ruins. If he’d done anything else he would have gone off the hill. He should be commended.”

Costa Europa Collides With Pier in Egypt - Three Crew Dead, Passengers Injured

Newspapers are reporting that the Costa Europa cruise ship collided with a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt yesterday.  The collision ripped a hole in the hull of the ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew member who, unidentified, are described as "an Indian, a Honduran and a Brazilian."  (Technically speaking, when a vessel strikes a pier, it is called an "allision" - "collisions" occur between vessels). 

Costa Europa Collision - Egypt - Passenger and Crew Injury and DeathFour other people were injured.  Some reports indicate that another crewmember and three British women passengers were injured.  Other newspapers say that four passengers were injured. 

Pursuant to the terms of the passenger's cruise tickets, if the passengers need to make a claim for medical expneses and compensation, they are required to make their claim in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Cruise line officials are quoted as saying that "strong winds" pushed the cruise into a pier as it tried to dock at the port.

It seems that every time a cruise ship hits a dock, the cruise lines blame it on the wind as opposed to poor seamanship at the helm.   

The cruise ship was sailing on an 18-day cruise from Dubai to Savona.

The photographs of the Costa Europe show the vessel listing heavily on its port side, in order to keep water ouring into the large opening on the starboard side. 

A photograph of the extensive damage to the crew quarters in shown is an article in the U.K. Sun newspaperCosta Europa - Damage to Crew Cabin - Collision

The passengers were disembarked, and Costa Crociere is arranging for them to be flown back to their countries of origin.

 

Credits:

 

Costa Europa  cruise ship -  AP (Hussien Talal) via Mail Online

Damage to crew cabin of  Costa Europa - U.K. Sun Newspaper

 

 

 

Brake Malfunction? Defense Lawyers for Princess Cruises and Bus Driver Disagree on Cause of Tortola Excursion Accident

In our first article regarding the excursion tour bus accident in Tortola, we explained that while Princess Cruises sent "customer care" representatives to the island to meet with the survivors of the crash - the cruise line also sent Miami defense trial lawyers to defend the cruise line's interests. 

The Cruise Line Gets Lawyered Up

The attorney heading up Princess Cruises' defense is Jeffrey Maltzman from the Maltzman Foreman law firm in Miami. Mr. Maltzman is an experienced and skilled trial lawyer who routinely defends cruise lines and excursion companies in high profile trials. 

Jeffrey Maltman - Cruise Line Defense LawyerMr. Maltzman is best known for his successful defense of Cunard Line and Fun Water Tours following the crash of an excursion truck in Tortola British Virgin Islands (BVI) in November 2005.  The case  is highlighted in an article appearing in the National Law Journal entitled "Defense Team Found the Needle in the Haystack." 

The article explains that 8 cruise passengers from Cunard's Queen Mary 2 visiting Tortola were injured when the brakes of the excursion truck failed, causing the vehicle to crash in the side of a mountain.  The issue of the brake failure and whether the excursion company and cruise line knew of the brake problem were the central focus of the trial.  As the article explains, millions of dollars in compensation were at issue.    

Although the article explains that "odds were overwhelmingly against" the cruise line at the beginning, Mr. Maltzman and his partner, Jeffrey Forman, successfully defended the case.  Mr. Foreman is quoted as saying "there's a saying that pigs get slaughtered . . . If you make them look like they're greedy . . .  that usually has an impact.  So we tried to paint them as greedy, exaggerating, malingering."  The tactic worked, as the jury decided against all of the cruise passengers and Mr. Maltzman won a defense jury verdict for the cruise line and excursion company.  

Princess Cruises Denies Brake Malfunction?

Mr. Maltzman has been on the Caribbean Princess cruise ship this week interviewing the passengers injured in the latest excursion crash in Tortola.  His firm has what is called an "Emergency Response Team" where defense lawyers are scrambled to respond to cruise disasters.

Some passengers suggest that a "customer care" representative from Princess and Carnival introduced Mr. Maltzman as an "independent investigator" (although Mr. Maltzman identified himself as a lawyer for the cruise line).    

Tortola Excursion Bus Accident - Princess Cruises - Brake Failure?Mr. Maltzman is reportedly telling some of the passengers that the tour bus' air brakes were checked out by investigators and no problems were discovered.  It is less than clear whether the investigators were retained by the police or the defense lawyers on behalf of the cruise line. 

The defense strategy is already taking shape - the cruise line will deny that the accident was due to brake failure or any defect in the excursion bus or, if there was a problem with the brakes, neither the driver nor the excursion company or cruise line knew about it beforehand.  Princess Cruises will argue that it should not be responsible because this was just an isolated incident due to the momentary carelessness of the bus driver. 

Or in other words, the bus driver may turn out to be the "fall guy."

The Bus Driver Gets Lawyered Up

BVI Platinum News, which is providing excellent coverage of this tragic accident, reports that the bus driver, Roland Allen, retained a defense lawyer, Stephan Daniels.  BVI News reports that Mr. Allen is also known as "Crash Dummy."   

Roland Allen - Bus Driver - Tortola Excursion Accident - Princess CruisesMr. Daniels appeared in Court yesterday in an effort to try and get his client out of jail, following his arrest two days ago.  In an article entitled "Mechanical Problems May Have Caused Tuesday's Accident,"  BVI News describes what the bus driver's lawyer argued to the Court:

"Daniels told the court that his client was not aware that there was a brake malfunction when he was going down the hill, however as he applied the brake, he realized that it had failed.

Further, Daniels told the court that once Allen realized what was occurring, he tried his best to avoid the accident by gearing down, while attempting to brace the vehicle to the side of the hill to slow down the bus.

Daniels explained that the vehicle collided with the foundation of a church ruin and toppled. The Lawyer said that if this was not done, the accident could have been worse.

He said that it was clearly a mechanical malfunction that resulted in the accident and his client was not reckless."

The Court nonetheless declined to release Mr. Allen, but will consider the matter further at a hearing on March 2nd.

The Cruise Continues

Although none of the passengers have even ended their ill fated cruise, the defense lawyers for the cruise line and bus driver are posturing to defend their clients.  Princess Cruises has an excellent lawyer in Mr. Maltzman who has won this type of case before.  The bus driver should hope that his defense lawyer is equally talented.

 

Credits:

Jeffrey Maltzman       Superlawyers

Excursion Bus           BVI Platinum News

Roland Allen             BVI Platinum News  

Princess Cruises Passenger is Remembered as an "Easy, Gracious Man"

13WHAM in Rochester, New York has a story on Aaron Rumphrey, who passed away during a shore excursion in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.  He had been cruising with his parents.  Written by Elizabeth Schubert, the article is entitled "Easy, Gracious Man."

Aaron RumphreyMr. Rumphrey attended classes at the Cobblestone Arts Center in Farmington, New York. His teachers and friends there remember him as "just a sweet young man." 

The director of the center is quoted as saying that Mr. Rumphrey "was very creative, loved stories, creating stories, had a great sense of humor. He would always make jokes with the other students."

The article also mentions that the center is planning a tribute for Mr. Rumphrey, and may create a scholarship or name a dance studio at the center after him.

 

 

 

Credits:

Article                              Elizabeth Schubert 

Photograph                   13WHAM Rochester, New York

Family of Kipi Holcomb: No Foul Play In Death of Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger

KHOU.com from Houston, Texas reports that the parents of Kipi Holcomb do not believe that their daughter's death on the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship was the result of foul play or that her boyfriend, Jeffrey Aaron StultzKipi Holcomb - Aaron Stultz - Death - Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship, had anything to do with her passing.  

In an article entitled "Family: No Foul Play in Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger's Death," FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap is quoted as saying that the investigators haven’t found any reason to suspect foul play.

Ms. Holcomb’s family is disturbed that there is a cloud of suspicion cast over their daughter’s boyfriend, Mr. Stultz, and they want to dispel rumors that he had anything to do with the young woman’s death.

"I don’t want any suspicion cast on Aaron at all," said Sharron Holcomb. "As far as any earthly party having anything to do with her death, absolutely not."

The Holcombs also believe that Carnival mistreated Mr. Stultz aboard the cruise ship. The newspaper reports that "according to the Holcombs, once Aaron found their daughter lifeless and called for help, he was taken to what they described as a blood-stained room. They said he was locked inside and wasn’t allowed to make a phone call. 'They treated him like he was guilty,' said Sharron Holcomb."

The Holcombs said that while they don’t know how their daughter died, they’re confident foul play wasn’t involved.

The KHOU.com story was compiled from information from by Courtney Zubowski / 11 News, T.J. Aulds / The Daily News  and John Tompkins / The (Brazosport) Facts. 

In a previous article, we reported on the wildly conflicting stories surrounding Ms. Holcomb's death in an article entitled "FBI Investigating Death of Passenger Kipi Holcomb on Carnival Ecstasy."  One local newspaper reports that there were clear signs of foul play involved, but this conclusion appears questionable at this point.

A local news channel in Texas also reports "Family: No Foul Play in Cruise Ship Death" and has a number of photographs of Ms. Holcomb.

The medical examiner in Galveston will be conducting toxicology tests to arrive at a final conclusion regarding the cause of death.

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Photograph            Facebook

Video                        KHOU.com

FBI Investigating Death of Passenger Kipi Holcomb on Carnival Ecstasy

Kipi Holcomb - Death - Carnival Ecstasy  Multiple new sources are reporting that the FBI is investigating the death of a 32 year old woman from  Brazoria County, Texas aboard the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy

Kipi Holcomb was sailing with who is described as either her fiance or her newlywed husband, whose identity has not been revealed.  Most news sources call the death "mysterious," although the Police News website in Galveston is reporting the death as a murder.  According to the Police News:

" . . .  a 32-year old Brazoria County woman and her fiancee set sail earlier this week from Galveston and she was dead when the ship docked in Mexico.  FBI Agents went to Mexico to conduct an investigation.  It was reported that the woman had been beaten to death and the primary suspect is the man she married aboard the ship.  Although FBI spokesmen have called the investigation routine, it is reported the woman's death was a homicide. The Galveston County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy and issue an official ruling in the death."

This sketchy article does not identify who, if anyone, stated that physical violence was involved or concluded that the death was a homicide.

However, another news source suggests that there were no signs of foul play whatsoever.  A local newspaper in Galveston, TheFacts.com, writes that:

"FBI Agent Pat Villafranca would release few details in the death of Kipi Holcomb, 32 . . . Holcomb’s body was found Monday on the Carnival ship Ecstacy, which set sail from Galveston on Monday, federal agents said. Her body did not have any visible signs of trauma, Villafranca said. An autopsy on her body began Saturday at the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office . . .  FBI agents boarded the ship at Progresso, Mexico, on Monday after Holcomb’s body was discovered, agents said . . . FBI agents said they do not suspect foul play in the death.

 

 

Ms. Holcomb apparently died last Monday and her death was reported to the cruise ship on Tuesday.  It is less than clear whether her body was removed when the cruise ship reached Mexico, or whether she was returned to Galveston.

No news source other than Galveston's Police News is reporting this as a murder.  The death of a healthy 32 year old woman is certainly unusual and the FBI rarely travels outside of the U.S. unless there is a reasonable basis to suspect that the incident involved a crime. 

If this is in fact a murder, it is the second such case on a Carnival cruise ship recently.  We previously reported on the death of a Carnival passenger last July aboard Carnival's Elation cruise ship.  Robert John McGill was charged with the first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley, who was beaten and strangled in their cabin.  Our article is entitled " Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case."  

A commentator to MyFoxHouston.com says that a scholarship fund has been established in Ms. Holcomb's memory:

Kipi Wiley-Holcomb Scholarship Fund
Brazosport College Foundation for Scholarship
500 College Drive
Lake Jackson, TX 77566

February 22, 2010 UPDATE:

A family member submitted a comment (below) and a video link from a local news station where the parents expressed the belief that the incident did not involve foul play.  

Galveston's The Daily News is reporting that the medical examiner's initial results indicate no external signs of foul play.  In an artice entitled "No Evidence of Trauma in Cruise Ship Death," the newspaper writes:

""An initial forensic examination of a woman found dead aboard a cruise ship revealed no signs of traumatic injury, authorities said Monday.

Kipi Holcomb, 32, of Brazoria County was found dead Feb. 15 in her room after the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy left its home port of Galveston.

Upon the ship’s return to Galveston on Saturday, the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy, John Florence, a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, said.

'There was no evidence of trauma in an initial look Saturday,' Florence said, noting the investigation would continue today.

The cause of Holcomb’s death will be determined pending a toxicology report, which can take from two to three weeks, Florence said."

For further updates, please read: "Family of Kipi Holcomb: No Foul Play In Death of Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger." 
 

   

Credits:

Photograph 1:                saltwatersportsman.com

Video:                               myfoxhouston.com

 

 

 

Carnival Passenger Dies During Paragliding Accident in Cozumel

A number of newspapers are reporting that a Carnival cruise passenger from Philadelphia died while paragliding during a stop in Cozumel.

Joseph Job (Sajan) - Carnival Cruise - Paragliding The South Asian Mail reports that Mr. Joseph Job (Sajan), age 40, was paragliding with friends in Mexico when his harness broke and he fell into the sea. 

Mr. Job was a native of Thrissur, Kerala and became a U.S. citizen.

The Web Malayalee newspaper indicates that Mr. Job is survived by his wife and daughters. 

Every year many cruise passengers are killed or seriously injured during excursions in ports of call.  We have seen many accidents involving parasailing, zip-lining, snorkeling, diving, and renting jet skis in Mexican and Caribbean ports of call.  Compounding the issue is the generally inferior medical and rescue services in these ports. 

It is unknown whether the paragliding excursion was advertised and sold by Carnival.  

Update: February 12, 2010:

Cruise Critic contains a comment by a reader that the passenger was from the Carnival Imagination cruise ship.  The reader was apparently the first one to notify the family and Carnival:  

"Incident happened at around 5:00 and Carnival reacted at 7:30 PM. We informed on the emergency number given on Carnival Capers. Carnival Imagination security team acknowledge that there local agent (emergency no. on Capers is of this agent) goofed up in Cozumel." 

 

Credit:

Photograph of Mr. Joseph Job (Sajan)               South Asian Mail

Costa Victoria Passenger Goes Overboard During Excursion

A newspaper in Brazil reports that a passenger from Costa Cruises' Victoria cruise ship went overboard during an excursion while the cruise ship was off the coast of Brazil between Río de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Costa Cruises - Costa VictoriaEntitled "Una Turista Argentina Falleció Cerca de Río," the article reports that the passenger was from Argentina.  She had taken an excursion boat with other passengers to go to a beach to snorkel and dive.  The passenger went overboard during the trip, and her body was found hours later.

No information was provided to explain how the passenger went overboard.  The passenger's name was not released.  The article indicates that Brazilian authorities will be investigating and a report is expected in 90 days.

 

For updated information, please subscribe by typing your e-mail address in the box to the bottom left, or sign up for a RSS feed.

 

Credits:

Costa Victoria          Wikimedia Commons

 

Antiguan Murder Suspect in Death Of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Held Without Bail

The Antigua Sun newspaper in Antigua reports on the preliminary arraignment of Tishara Daniel who is charged with the murder of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen in Antigua.

The Antigua Sun contains the first photograph of Mr. Daniel.

Trishara Daniel - Antigua - Muder Trial - Nina Nilssen

The article contains rather bizarre details of the suspect's clothing and shoes and what is described as nervous fidgeting by the defendant.

Mr. Daniel was held without bail and sent to prison waiting trial.  His lawyer can petition a higher court for bail.

His attorney is identified as Dane Hamilton Jr.

This will be a trial which will receive a lot of attention in the U.S. over the course of the next year. 

We have had a number of clients victimized on cruise ships and in ports in the Caribbean.  Obtaining a guilty verdict involving a crime against a U.S. citizen in a Caribbean courtroom is not as easy as it may seem.  There are many talented defense lawyers throughout the Caribbean.

Don't underestimate a dedicated and experienced defense lawyer versus local prosecutors, for a second. 

Our experience has been that jurors are sometimes more sympathetic to the local island citizen than the U.S. victim.  Perhaps this sounds cynical, so be it.  

We hope that this is not the situation with this case. But without a doubt, this will be a long and exhausting process for the families involved. 

 

Credit:

Tishara Daniel               Antigua Sun

Letter of Thanks By Family of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen

The following is the statement of the Nilssen family, issued today:

We, the family of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen, welcome the news that the police force in St. George, Antigua Barbuda led by Corporal Marlon Proctor have arrested and charged Tishara Daniel of Sweets Village, Antigua with the murder of our daughter. We are thankful for your respect for our family's privacy at this difficult moment and will not be available for interviews. Our expectation is that the Antigua Barbuda justice system will convict and sentence this killer to the maximum punishment available.

During our horrific ordeal following Nina’s murder, the people of Antigua treated us with respect, grace, and kindness. We would like to thank the Antiguan Ministry of Tourism for their generous hospitality; Corporal Proctor and his team of investigators, Assistant Commissioner of Police Jacques Ouellette, and Deputy Commissioner of Police Neal Parker for their diligent work. Although we do not know their names, we would also like to express our gratitude to the witnesses for playing a big part in the capture of this murderer.

We are especially grateful to our home communities of Taos, NM and San Francisco, CA for the incredible outpouring of love and compassion during this difficult time.

Nina was an adventurer and a free spirit and she is now on the ultimate adventure.

We ask that those wishing to honor Nina send donations to the Peruvian organization ANDES (Asociación para la Naturaleza y Desarrollo Sosentible), which works for land rights Nina Nillsen - Donation - Q'eros - Perufor indigenous communities and promotes sustainable development in the Andes. They have set up the Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Fund which will provide resources for the Q'eros people, who were very special to Nina, and other indigenous communities to establish Vilcanota, the world's first spiritual national park, to forever protect their lands and traditions in the face of large-scale mining development and to share with visitors the serene and sacred beauty of the high Andes.

To make a donation in honor of Nina, please visit http://www.taoscf.org or mail your check to PO Box: 1925, Taos, NM 87571. For more information about ANDES, please visit  http://www.andes.org.pe.

 

 

 

 

Photograph of Ms. Nilssen                 San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate online)

Memorial Services Held for Nina Nilssen

Nina Nilssen - DonationsThe Taos News reports that memorial services were held this weekend for Nina Nilssen.

The newspaper states that "donations will provide resources for the Q’eros people and other indigenous communities to establish Vilcanota, the world’s first spiritual national park, to protect their land, traditions and the sacred beauty of the high Andes — a place of great joy for Nina Nilssen."

Donations should be made to the Taos Community Foundation in Ms. Nilssen’s honor.

Please mail your donations to:

Taos Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1925 Taos NM 87571.

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Photo of Ms. Nilssen         Nilssen family via Rivera Family

 

Antiguan Police Arrest Suspect in Death of Nina Nillsen

The police in Antigua arrested a suspect for the murder of Nina Nilssen who died January 19, 2010 after taking a tender from the Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship to Pigeon Point Beach.

According to a newspaper in Dominica, the police arrested a 24 year-old Dominican man, Tishara Daniel.  The Washington Post reports that the suspect was carrying Ms. Nilssen's camera when he was arrested. The newspaper also reports that the police have "what is believed to be the weapon" that killed Ms. Nilssen. 

Fox News reports that Mr. Daniel confessed to the murder.

Last week, Star Clippers announced that it will stop calling at Antigua.  Star Clippers chief executive officer Mikael Krafft announced that it will monitor the security situation in Antigua and evaluate the cruise line's options. 

Last year, Carnival dropped Antigua from its itinerary. We have reported in prior blogs that there has been a number of attacks on tourists in Antigua.

A video of the police's press conference (parts 1 and 2) announcing the arrest is below:

 

 

 

 

 

For information on this tragedy, we have the following articles:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

Controversy Surrounds Star Clippers' Response to Nina Nilssen Tragedy

    

Credit:

Police press conference                    Caribarena YouTube
 

Controversy Surrounds Star Clippers' Response to Nina Nilssen Tragedy

A controversy has emerged whether the officers of Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship acted appropriately following the death of passenger Nina Nilssen ashore in Antigua.

A travel writer who was sailing aboard the Royal Clipper criticized the handling of the tragedy in her Antigua - Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper blog entitled:   "We spend tranquil days in Antigua and St. Kitts but these are overshadowed by the murder onshore of one of our passengers."  She felt that the officers were not forthcoming with information and the cruise line had no plans in place to handle the crisis.   

 Another passenger who was sailing on the cruise ship voiced sharp criticism of the Star Clipper organization, including the failure to warn of dangers ashore in Antigua. In the Antigua & Barbados online forum the passenger writes:

I was on board the Royal Clipper, the cruise ship that docked off Pigeon Beach where this passenger was killed. I can assure you that you commenters on this forum have showed more compassion and concern than was shown by the officers of this ship. After a day of rumors, the following announcement was made over the loudspeaker: "Today a family made an unfortunate disembarkation due to a missing family member." End of announcement, end of story. No warning had been given to any passengers that the area might be dangerous. Passengers were encouraged by ship personnel to use a back path between the beach and the marina, which I Antigua - Nina Nillsen - Star Clippersbelieve is where the body was found. I totally blame the Star Clippers Cruise Line for this tragedy. The next day on St. Kitts, the ship once again anchored off an isolated and un protected beach, with nary a word of warning to the passengers . . .

But the travel agent who booked the cruise for the Nilssen family had high praise for the cruise ship's officer in her comments to one of our articles:

Star Clippers have been on top of this from day one. They kept the members of the party that remained on the ship updated and treated them with kindness. The family that stayed at Antigua was treated with respect and understanding. Star Clippers assisted the family and has returned the fares of those remaining in Antigua . . .

 

We have written other articles on this tragedy:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

Anyone with information about this crime should contact the police in Antigua: The Criminal Investigations Department at 462-3913 or 462-3914, Dockyard Police Station at 460-1002.  (Area code 268)

Credits

Photograph 1  San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate online)

Photograph 2  Todd Trumbull / The Chronicle (via San Francisco Chronicle) 

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

The U.S. national media has begun covering the sad story of 29 year old Nina Nilssen, who was killed in Antigua following the wedding of her sister a few days earlier aboard the Royal Clipper.

This is about the saddest story imaginable where Ms. Nilssen was murdered during a once in a lifetime wedding cruise involving her extended family. 

Ms. Nilssen is remembered as a musician and composer, and world traveler having gone trekking in South America and Mexico.  The San Francisco Chronicle quotes her friend, Iris Weiss, who grew up with Ms. Nilssen in Taos, New Mexico, commenting on the incongruity of her death: "she had traveled the world by herself and done all sorts of stuff that would seem more dangerous . . "

We commented on this tragedy in prior articles: Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua and Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.  We have read both criticism and praise of the cruise line's handling of this matter on our blog.

Anyone with information should contact the police in Antigua: The Criminal Investigations Department at 462-3913 or 462-3914, Dockyard Police Station at 460-1002.  (Area code 268).

There are a number of national television stations which have covered this story, below: 

 

  

 

 

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Cruise Law News was the first in the U.S. to report on the death of  Nina Elizabeth Nilssen in Antigua on January 19, 2010.  The story was then quickly picked up by our followers on Twitter, such as CruiseCritic and CruiseLog.

Stories about crimes against tourists in Caribbean ports, as sad as they may be, serve an important purpose.  Many people have a false sense of security when they go on a cruise for a vacation get-away or a romantic honeymoon.  But the fact of the matter is that unlike sailing to Alaska, there is an increasing amount of violent crime in the Caribbean ports of call.  We have written about this problem, and the cruise industry's tendency not to warn passengers, in a prior article: "Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers."

Royal Clipper - Star Clippers - Passenger Death - AntiguaIn researching Ms. Nilssen's death, I ran across an interesting blog written by Cynthia Boal Janssens who is one the bloggers on the cruise website All Things Cruise.  Ms. Janssens is described as a "veteran cruise writer who is also a former president of the Society of American Travel Writers."   

Ms. Janssens was one of the passengers traveling on the ill fated Royal Clipper cruise in the Caribbean.  She wrote an article which mentioned  the wonderful wedding of  Ms. Nilssen's sister after the Royal Clipper sailed from Barbados. She described later taking a tender to the marina in Falmouth Harbour in Antigua.  She walked with her husband to the Pigeon Point beach where Star Clippers held a barbecue for lunch, followed by swimming and snorkeling from the beach. In her article "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St Kitts But Tragedy Upset Everyone," she commented:

Unfortunately, we learned this morning that a tragedy occurred late yesterday on Antigua and although I really don’t want to write about it, I feel I must. A passenger from our ship was found killed on the beach late in the day (not the part of beach that our group was on). The young woman had last been seen at 3:30 p.m. after being part of a snorkeling group. Of course, we do not know who perpetrated the crime and the ship was in no way connected to this reprehensible act.

Her family disembarked the ship that night and sailing was delayed by several hours. Word spread quickly through the ship yesterday morning about the crime although few specific details were known until later in the day. Just before dinner an announcement was made that a family had disembarked because one of their party was missing and asked that any passengers with information should report it to the police. Then we were asked for a moment of silence. All in our group felt that the ship’s officials should have been more forthcoming.

Nina Elizabeth Nilssen - Murder - AntiguaI think that this incident reinforces a fact of travel that we should never forget. That crime exists everywhere . . .

I was surprised  to read this because most travel writers tend to shy away from cruise horror stories.  Travel writers seem to double as travel agents or they don't want to offend the cruise lines which give them free cruises.  I thought to myself that All Things Cruise had done its readers a real service.

The article touched upon a real human tragedy in a sensitive and respectful manner while adding a warning, which perhaps the cruise line failed to provide to Ms. Nilssen in the first place.

I downloaded her article and tacked it on the bulletin board in my home office. 

So when I clicked back on the All Things Cruise website this morning, I was disappointed to see that the article had been re-written.  And the title had been changed to "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St. Kitts."  There was no mention of Ms. Nilssen's murder or any criticism of the ship's officers. The "tragedy" disappeared.  It is as if the murder didn't happen. 

A "tranquil" day in Antigua? 

Dear God. A young woman had just been murdered and her family devastated. "A tranquil day?"

I do not know Ms. Janssens.  She undoubtedly is a nice and caring person.  But why did her story change?  Did the cruise line ask her to change it?  Why did she decide that the story that she felt compelled to write and her warning to cruisers were no longer needed?  

The cruise industry's reputation has taken a beating over the years. Cruise lines create the fantasy of care-free vacations and romantic honeymoons in order to sell tickets. But they lack transparency and candor when things go terribly wrong. Travel writers who ignore the murders, rapes, and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing the cruise industry a favor.

And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who decides to buy a cruise to the Caribbean. 

UPDATE (January 25, 2010 afternoon):

Ms. Janssens' article has reappeared and is now entitled:  "We spend tranquil days in Antigua and St. Kitts but these are overshadowed by the murder onshore of one of our passengers." 

 

Credits:

Royal Clipper                 All Things Cruise

Police in Antigua          Antigua Sun  "Police Hunt for Killer"

Another Death on a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis Cruise

A newspaper in the Cayman Islands is reporting that a 37 year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas died during an Atlantis sponsored cruise.

Atlantis - Royal Caribbean - Cruise - DeathThe local newspaper carries the sensational headline: "Body Found On Gay Cruise Ship."  The cruise ship had been chartered by Atlantis Events, which organizes parties for the gay community.

The cruise was billed as the Liberty Gay Cruise - the World's Largest All-Gay Cruise

The local police in the Caymans apparently issued a statement to the effect that "there would appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death."  This is a ridiculous statement.  Perhaps there is no evidence of a murder, but clearly a death of a 37 year old man healthy enough to go on a vacation cruise is inherently suspicious. 

The Advocate also reports on this latest death.

Previously, we reported on the death of another passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise in October 2009. Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD"), died on the Mariner of the Seas. There is speculation that Mr. Yu, also a young man of  only 46 years, may have died of a drug overdose during the cruise.

Commenters on the gay community blogs Queerty and JoeMyGod bickered about the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events. Whether Mr. Yu's death is drug related is unknown to us.  

It has been our experience that cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature Rich Campbell - Atlantis Events - Gay Cruise - Royal Caribbean - Deathof the ship's medical facilities. Are cruise ships equipped to handle medical emergencies which occur during Atlantis parties?  Does Atlantis discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

The Atlantis cruise parties are organized by Rich Campbell who is quoted in a recent article saying: "There’s no turning back. Once you sail, if you forget something, you’re screwed!" 

There doubtlessly will be speculation regarding the cause of this most recent cruise death and the connection to the Atlantis organization.  Is this recent death just a coincidence to the unfortunate death of Mr. Yu on another Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise? 

The skeptic in me says there are no such coincidences in life, or in death. 

 

 

 

Credits:

Newspaper            CompassCayman.com

Rich Campbell       Caribbean Net News "Rainbow Welcome for Gay Cruisers in the Cayman Islands"

Video                      Cayman Islands News 27

Crew Member Found Dead on MSC Musica Cruise Ship - Murder or Suicide?

A crew member aboard the MSC cruise ship Musica was found dead in her cabin, according to numerous news sources today.

Camila Peixoto Bandeira, 28, was reportedly found in her cabin by another crew member, a Camila Peixoto Bandeira - MSC - Musica - Murder - Cruise Shipbartender, who also worked aboard MSC's Musica (photo left).  He is identified as either her husband or boyfriend.

One article in Portuguese entitled "Polícia Federal Investiga Morte de Tripulante em Navio" (Federal Police Investigates Death of Crew Member in Ship) reports that Ms. Bandeira's "husband" allegedly found his wife in their cabin, claiming that she may have committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet from an overhead pipe. The story in the article is that he went to work in the morning around 7:00 a.m. and returned shortly before 10:00 a.m. to find Ms. Bandeira dead. 

However, the article also reports that the Master, staff captain, and ship doctor suggest that the case may have involved a murder by strangulation. 

Another article entitled "Bartender é Encontrada Morta em Navio" suggests that Ms. Bandeira's body was found by her boyfriend, identified as Polish crew member Souza Bicalho. This article also reports that he claims that she hung herself with a sheet, although the cruise ship officers apparently did not locate a sheet in the cabin.

The incident occurred on Sunday, January 10, 2010 while the cruise ship was in Port of Santos in Brazil. The newspapers also suggest that the couple allegedly had a history of quarrels.

The police in Brazil are investigating the incident.  They are waiting for toxicology tests and a medical examiner's report.   

 

Credits:        Lucas Latreche

Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case

Robert John McGill - muder - Carnival Cruise Ship ElationThe San Diego Union Tribune reports that federal prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty against a passenger who is charged with beating his wife to death while on a Carnival cruise last summer.

The newspaper reports that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego charged Robert John McGill with first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley.

Mr. McGill is charged with beating his wife to death in their cabin aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation on July 14, 2009. The newspaper reports that court records quote witnesses as saying Robert McGill appeared extremely intoxicated - not an uncommon occurrence on cruise ships.

Mr. McGill also reportedly admitted killing his wife to passengers, cruise ship line employees, and Robert John McGill - Carnival Elation - Cruise Ship Murder FBI agents who arrived on the cruise ship. 

The Los Angeles’ Daily News previously reported that “Defendant Robert McGill stated he killed his wife in the bathroom of their cabin with his bare hands,” according to a criminal complaint filed by a FBI special agent. 

An autopsy conducted by the San Diego County medical examiner concluded that Ms. McGill died of strangulation and blunt force injury to her head and body.

According to the Cruise Ship Forum, Carnival stated that notwithstanding the murder and the arrival of 20 FBI agents, the Elation’s scheduled departure would not be delayed.

Mr. McGill is shown to the right being escorted off the crew gangway by a FBI agent, as passengers are seen boarding the passenger gangway above to begin their cruise on schedule.  

Carnival's motto: Load em' off, load em' in.  Let the drinking begin . . .     

Carnival Elation Cruise Ship

 

Credits:

Robert John McGill with FBI      L.A. Times

Carnival Elation cruise ship      Cruise Ship Forum "FBI Involved in Carnival Elation Murder"

Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas

There have been a few news stories about a cruise ship "passenger' dying of Legionnaire's disease after sailing on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas

The Miami Herald and the South Florida Business Review ("Legionnaire's May Be Linked to Ship") Libert of the Seas - Disease of the Seas? published articles last week about Mr. Tore Myhra - described as an "English tourist" - who died November 1st at Jackson Memorial Hospital after sailing for a week on the Liberty of the Seas. I commented on the story - Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas?

The Miami medical examiner's office reported that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.''  His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship.

The popular on-line cruise community CruiseCritic.com also reported on the story in an article entitled "Cruise Passenger Among Recent Legionnaire's Victims." Cruise Critic tried to interview Royal Caribbean who refused to disclose the name of its "passenger." 

Instead of discussing the death of the passenger, Royal Caribbean crisis management spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, released a statement which is posted on the Cruise Critic site as follows:

"Although we do not know the source of the guest's legionellosis, we have taken more than 90 Legionnaire's Diseasedifferent water samples from the ship over the past few months as part of our routine water testing program, and all those tests have come back negative regarding the bacteria that can cause the illness.

Nevertheless, we are taking some precautionary steps onboard, which are being done in an abundance of caution, to maintain our high health standards, and as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include special sanitizing of key areas onboard, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone. Like our guests, we take all health issues seriously."

This is a disturbing statement.

Only 90 water samples over the course of several months?  If a "passenger" became diseased and the routine tests results are negative, this could mean that the cruise line simply did not test a sufficient number of locations. 

The Liberty of the Seas is a huge cruise ship.  90 samples is a grossly insufficient number of water samples over the course of many months.  There are thousands of water faucets, drinking fountains, shower heads, whirlpools, saunas, flo-riders, spas, H2O zones, and other water sources on a ship this large. It is widely known that Royal Caribbean is making financial cutbacks throughout its fleet.  Testing water samples is expensive. 

Has Royal Caribbean cut back on the number of water samples to save money?

The cruise line should be taking several hundreds of samples a month on a routine basis, with repeat testing. And the samples should be tested at national laboratories whose reputations are beyond reproach. Liberty of the Seas - H2O Zone - Legionnaire's Disease?After a death like this, there should be literally over a thousand tests conducted to test every possible source of this disease.   

What is also disturbing is that Royal Caribbean failed to mention that Mr. Myhra was not only a "passenger" but was the former Captain (i.e., Master) of several Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Captain Myhra was the Master of the Monarch of the Seas and one of the cruise line's very first cruise ships, Song of America.  

Captain Myhra is of Norwegian descent. He lived in England after he retired from Royal Caribbean.  By all accounts, Captain Myhra was an a good guy and an accomplished mariner.  He was well liked by the crew of the cruise ships on which he served as Master.  

In 1998, he ran into a bit of bad luck when the Monarch of the Seas ran into a reef after entering the harbor in St. Maarten in the middle of the night to bring a sick passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment. The incident occurred on December 15, 1998, when the cruise ship grounded on Proselyte Reef, in Great Bay, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles. The vessel Monarch of the Seas - Grounded - St. Maarten - Tore Myhrasustained heavy damage to the hull and began to take on water, requiring Captain Myhra to ground the ship to keep it from sinking. The passengers were taken from the beached cruise ship via tenders. 

There are a number of interesting reports of this incident, including a detailed marine casualty report from the U.S. Coast Guard and Norwegian maritime investigators (which contains Royal Caribbean Safety Management System - SMS - documents available on line). 

In 1999, shortly after this debacle, Captain Myhra resigned from Royal Caribbean.  Even though he was not at the helm when the ship hit the reef, he took responsibility. 

Word has it that after retirement from the cruise business, he began a highly successful camping business called Rose Farm Touring & Camping Park in England with his wife, Susan, and their children.  

Captain Myhra ended his career with Royal Caribbean trying to help a sick passenger in the middle of the night by diverting the cruise into port for emergency medical care. 

It is beyond irony that "passenger" Myhra's life was cut short when he became ill and Royal Caribbean kept him on the Liberty of the Seas until the end of the cruise, only to die in a public hospital in Miami the next day.    

September 26, 2009 Update: The story gets worse. "Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra."

 

Credits:

Liberty of the Seas   BobDarling1956 Webshots

Legionella cells  Scienceblogs.com

Liberty of the Seas H2O Zone  The Travel Advocate

Monarch of the Seas   CaptainsVoyage         

New Trial Ordered in Dianne Brimble Cruise Ship Death

A Court in Australia has scheduled a new trial in the trial of P & O Cruises passenger Mark Wilhelm who was charged with the manslaughter death of fellow passenger Dianne Brimble aboard the P & O cruise ship Pacific Sky.

In October, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the first trial. 

Dianne Brimble Cruise Ship TrialThe Crown charged Wilhelm of manslaughter of Ms. Brimble who died on the P&O cruise ship in September 2002 after being given the illegal drug GHB, also known as fantasy or liquid ecstasy.  In addition to the manslaughter charges, the Crown charged Wilhem with the lesser charge of providing an illegal substance to Ms. Brimble.

This is great news for the Brimble family, who has been steadfast in their resolve to see this matter through until the judicial process has been exhausted. 

The new trial is scheduled for April 19, 2010.

Ms. Brimble’s family joined International Cruise Victims (“ICV”) organization to bring awareness to the problem of cruise ship crime. Mr. Brimble is the President of the ICV chapter in Australia. Information regarding Ms. Brimble is available on the ICV website

I have written a number of articles about the danger of date rape drugs on cruise ships and Ms. Brimble's case:

Date Rape Drugs on Cruise Ships - the Death of Dianne Brimble

"Crawfishing" - Passengers in P & O Cruises Death Case Can't Remember A Thing

Another Crawfishing Witness in the Dianne Brimble Trial

Jury Is Out in Dianne Brimble Cruise Death Case

Dianne Brimble and the Lessons to Teach Our Young Men

Jury Reaches Partial Verdict in Dianne Brimble Case

Hung Jury in Dianne Brimble Cruise Death Trial

 

Photo Credit      International Cruise Victims ("ICV") 

GLAAD Board Member Dies Aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

According to the Advocate.com, a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD") died of a heart attack  while on the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas.  Mr. Spencer Yu, a Los Angeles attorney, died after suffering a heart attack on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship which was chartered by Atlantis Events for a seven-day trip along the Mexican Riviera.

Spencer Yu - GLAADThe cruise ship's doctor and nurse reportedly attempted to resuscitate Mr. Yu before he was taken to a hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where he was taken from life support.

The Advocate reports that Mr. Yu was a member of the GLAAD national board of directors since 2006, a vice president of business and legal affairs for Warner Bros., and a graduate of University of Texas School of Law. He served as co-chair of the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles for the past two years and was scheduled to co-host again in 2010.
 
“Spencer was tirelessly optimistic and brought a ray of sunshine to everyone at GLAAD,” said GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios. Mr. Yu’s surviving partner, Dan Neisen, asked that donations be made to GLAAD’s Spencer Yu Memorial Fund in lieu of flowers. 
 

 

Photo credit            Advocate.com

 

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) has introduced an amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA") to permit families to recover reasonable compensation when a loved one dies in international waters.

DOHSA Is Unfair to Passengers

As matters now stand, a cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or a retired passenger's life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. We have written about this in the past.  Our last blog is entitled " The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

DOHSA is an ancient law and needs to be changed.

CLIA Loves DOHSA 

The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") is trying to kill the amendment.  CLIA has dispatched a small army of lawyers and lobbyists to Congress to kill the amendment.  CLIA doesn't explain to its 13,000,000 cruise customers or 16,000 travel agents that cruise passengers have few rights when they die during a cruise.  CLIA is working hard behind the scenes to make certain that the amendment does not come up for a vote tomorrow.

If CLIA kills the DOHSA amendment, the multi-billion dollar, non-tax paying cruise lines and their rich insurance companies will be very, very happy.  

Dianne Brimble and the Lessons to Teach Our Young Men

The jury remains out on the trial of cruise passenger Mark Wilhelm who is accused of killing fellow passenger, Dianne Brimble, on the P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun by supplying her with the date rape drug fantasy. 

We have commented on the case, explaining the risk of date rape drugs and the "crawfishing" testimony of Wilhelm's cruise buddies Dragan Losic and Letterio Silvestri to get their buddy off of the hook for his bad conduct.

The case is now in the hands of the jurors, who have endured the technical arguments of defendant Wilhelm's lawyers that Ms. Brimble did not have the drugs forced upon her, and so forth, and so on, and etcetera and etcetera. 

The jury will return its verdict this week.  The results seem to be a crap shoot, although I predict a conviction of defendant Wilhelm for giving Ms. Brimble the GHB which killed her.  But, and there is always a but, if the jury acquits Wilhelm - he will leave the courthouse with smiles and nervous laughter of relief. 

And the injustice to the Brimble family will continue.

Whatever the verdict, there remains the disturbing images of what happened on the Pacific Sun in 2002. Lessons remain to be learned to prevent a repeat of this disaster.

Several years ago, I printed out two articles which I have kept in my home office to remind me of this sad case.

One article was in the Sydney Morning Herald by Robert Wainwright entitled "Women Fair Game for Cruise's Hunting Pack." This is a disturbing article, filled with sexual predators and "the heady cocktail of alcohol, drugs and the thought of women trapped aboard a ship . . ."

If you read this article, you will need a shower to remove the sleaze.  There is no denying the palpable depravity on the P & O Cruises' cruise ship, with no real security and an "anything goes" attitude which are as responsible for Ms. Brimble's death as the scummy men who preyed upon her. 

The other article is entitled "Dianne Brimble and Me" by author Caroline Hutchinson who wrote the book  "Is It Just Me?"

Ms. Hutchinson's self-reflective article reveals the horror of Ms. Brimble’s death on the floor of an economy-class cabin of the Pacific Sky cruise ship and the despicable men who caused her death.  Ms. Hutchinson writes:

"One of these men, Leo Silvestri, told the police that Dianne Brimble’s death in his cabin ruined his holiday. He has admitted that on the morning in question, he woke to find Mrs Brimble dead on the floor, then showered and dressed her lifeless body.

Witnesses have told the inquest Mr. Silvestri later joked with fellow passengers that he considered throwing her body overboard.

Mr Silvestri told police that the night before Mrs. Brimble died, she allegedly walked up to his table and said: 'Hi, how are you going?'

'It’s like, Hi, see you. I just brushed her off; I didn’t want to speak to her ... breath, yuck, ugly dog, just go talk to someone else. Ring the RSPCA,' Silvestri said.

Later in the interview, Mr. Silvestri repeatedly referred to Mrs. Brimble as the 'thing' and called her the 'ugly dog.' 

He prided himself on the fact he didn’t 'talk to anything over 60 kilos.'

Ms. Hutchinson's article brings home the frightful specter of an insecure women running into a pack of wolves like this, whether the setting is a cruise ship or a neighborhood bar.  What are the lessons to be learned from this terrible tale?  Ms. Hutchinson again brings the point home reflecting on the question of how we are raising our own boys: 

"I want you to take a look around today. Look at your sons, and think about what their values are.

Are your boys kind? Are they generous of spirit? Do they think about the needs of other people? Are they brave? Do you trust them to do the right thing?

Would your son stand up for a drunken girl being harassed or degraded by a group of older blokes? Would he drag Dianne Brimble out of a ship’s cabin and get her help?

Look at your son.

Ask yourself if he’s that kind of boy.

Because that’s the type of man we need him to be."
 
 

Photo Credit:

Photo of "gang of 8"      The Age newspaper

Book cover "Is It Just Me?"    Caroline Hutchinson 

Jury Is Out in Dianne Brimble Cruise Death Case

Seven years after passenger Dianne Brimble died after ingesting a date rape drug aboard P & O Cruises' Pacific Sky in 2002, the jury has finally retired to consider its verdict.

Australian citizen and fellow passenger Mark Wilhelm is accused of the manslaughter death of Ms. Brimble after he allegedly gave her the drug Gamma Hydroxybutyrate ("GHB") during a cruise aboard the Pacific Sky.  In a previous article, I discussed that cruise passengers are at risk of rape after surreptitiously being given date rape drugs like GHB and Rohypnol.

Women have been drugged and raped on the Carnival subsidiary, sister brands - P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises.  These cruise lines know there is a danger presented to passengers and crew of date rape drugs and sexual assault of unconscious women - but refuse to admit or discuss the problem in public.

Yesterday, the prosecution dropped its charges that that Mr. Wilhelm displayed gross criminal negligence by failing to summons assistance after after she passed out and was left on the floor of the cabin. 

The jury is now left with the sole issue whether defendant Wilhelm committed a crime by supplying her with GHB, also known as the drug "fantasy."  The coroner has already concluded that Ms. Brimble died after being given a toxic mix of alcohol and GHB.

Although Mr. Wilhelm is rightfully considered to be one of the unsavory "gang of eight" aboard the cruise ship, a guilty verdict may be difficult to obtain.  His buddies obviously tried to cover for him during the five week trial.  I previously reported that Wilhelm's traveling mate Dragan Losic conveniently forgot facts which would incriminate Wilhelm.  And one of the other sleazy gang-of-eight members Letterio Silvestri also developed a selective memory during the trial.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Wilhelm's  defense lawyer claims that Ms. Brimble took the drug ''freely and voluntarily" and "without pressure or duress.'' Of course, Mr. Brimble is not here to tell the truth of what happened on the night in question. She ended up dead, face down on the floor of a cabin, after having the misfortune of running  into the "gang of eight."    

Over the weekend, I was the first to report in the U. S. (on Twitter and in this blog) that another passenger just reported being raped aboard P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun cruise ship. Seven years later and here we are again. The problem of date rape drugs, rapes, thugs, and shipboard deaths are issues which the U. S. traveling public would rather not think about. 

But the Brimble family has been suffering for seven years, and no one in the U. S. seems to be paying attention. The cruising public is focused on the never ending stories of bigger and bigger cruise ships and smaller and smaller cruise fares.

It has taken seven years to bring the Dianne Brimble case to trial.  When the jury returns its verdict, will anyone in the U. S. be listening?  Does anyone care?     

 

Photo credit:

Photo of Mark Wilhelm     Getty Images (via www.daylife.com)        

Group photo of men        Sydney Morning Herald 

Another Crawfishing Witness in the Dianne Brimble Trial

The criminal trial arising from the death of P & O Cruises' passenger, Dianne Brimble, has now seen another witness suddenly forget incriminating details surrounding Ms. Brimble's death.

In a previous article, I commented on the phenomenon of "crawfishing" witness, who like crawfish crawling back into a hole, backpedal from the truth when placed under pressure. 

Today, the trial included another one of the "8 persons of interest," Letterio Silvestri.  ABC News in Australia reports that Mr. Silvestri could no longer remember his friend Mark Wilhelm having sex with Ms. Brimble in the cabin after she had been drugged.  Nor could Mr. Silvestri remember pushing Ms. Brimble off of the bed and onto the floor shortly before she died of a toxic mix of alcohol and GBH. This story was also reported by the Australian newspaper. 

This follows the spectacle of "gang of 8" witness Dragan Losic being unable to remember meeting Ms. Brimble or seeing her in the cabin or recalling date rape drugs on the cruise ship as he originally testified at a preliminary hearing. This is not to mention reluctant witness Matthew Slade, who originally  told police he saw a naked body in the cabin. But once under oath at trial he could not remember a thing.

What a bunch of crustaceans.   

 

Photo credit  -    AAP Image: Mick Tsikas, via ABC News Australia  

"Crawfishing" - Passengers in P & O Cruises Death Case Can't Remember A Thing

The criminal trial in Australia regarding the death of Dianne Brimble on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sky continues with key witnesses having a complete lapse of memory. 

In a previous article, I commented on the danger of passengers, like Ms. Brimble, being given "Fantasy" or other date rape drugs on cruise ships.

Dragan Losic (with goatee), one of "8 persons of interest" in Ms. Brimble's death, appeared in Court. Over the course of three hours of his testimony, he could not even remember meeting Dianne Brimble on the first night of the cruise, just hours before she died in his friends' cabin. 

Australia's "The Age" newspaper reports that Mr. Losic previously testified in what is called a "coronial inquest." At that time, he clearly recollected that he was the first to meet Ms Brimble in a disco on the cruise ship and he later observed her in his friend's cabin.  He also remembered "Fantasy" on the cruise ship.  But now with his friend on trial for Ms.Brimble's death, Mr. Losic can't remember a thing.

Another key witness, Matthew Graham Slade, who testified today also changed his story. Australian news website news.com.au reports that Mr. Slade originally told police that  he awoke on the cruise and  saw a naked body on the floor of his cabin. But at trial, he claims that he can't remember this at all. 

In New Orleans where I went to law school, we called this "crawfishing."  This is a term which characterizes a crawfish (or other crustacean) which crawls backwards, usually into a hole, when confronted with danger. 

Date rape drugs.  Crawfishing witnesses.  A devastated family.  The trial continues. 

 

Photo credit      Sydney Morning Herald 

 

 

Date Rape Drugs on Cruise Ships - the Death of Dianne Brimble

A criminal trial begins this week in Australia in the case of cruise passenger Dianne Brimble, a passenger sailing with her children on P & O Cruises’ Pacific Sky in 2002. It has been seven years since Ms. Brimble’s ill fated cruise which ended with her death. A coroner determined the cause of her demise to be a date rape drug given to her by another passenger, Mark Wilhelm, who is now finally standing trial for her death.

There is a danger on cruise ships of being given a date rape drug by either a crew member or another passenger.

There are a couple of different date rape drugs. One is called “GHB.” The scientific name is Gamma Hydroxybutyric acid. It is also be called “grievous bodily harm.” Another is Funitrazepam, called Rohypnol or commonly known as “roofies.” These drugs are clear, tasteless, and odorless - similar to water. When combined with alcohol the drug will incapacitate unsuspecting victims and cause slurred speech, sedation, unconsciousness and death. Even without alcohol, Rohypnol is ten times stronger than Valium. Rapists use these drugs to knock their victims out.

These drugs are readily available in foreign ports, particularly in Mexico. Crew members or passengers going ashore can easily obtain “roofies” or “GHB” and bring the drugs back to the cruise ship.  One of our clients was given a spiked drink by a bartender on a cruise ship returning from Mexico. Interviewed by Time magazine in an article entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats," she reported "her legs go rubbery and her mind turn to mush as the bartender led her to an employees-only restroom and raped her before she passed out cold."

If proper blood and urine testing is not performed in a timely manner after the rape, the drugs will not be detected. Cruise ships are notorious for having ill equipped medical facilities and incompetent or indifferent staff. It is important for passengers to use the same safeguards you would use in a bar ashore:

  • Ask bartenders or bar servers to open your beverages in front of you.
  • Watch your drinks.
  • Don’t leave your drinks unattended when you go on the dance floor or to the ladies room.
  • Stay with your group of friends.
  • Realize that crimes occur routinely on cruise ships.
  • Have fun - but don’t let your guard down.
  • If you are a victim of rape, insist that the ship doctor take blood and urine samples immediately.

Ms. Brimble’s family joined International Cruise Victims (“ICV”) organization to bring awareness to the problem of cruise ship crime. Mr. Brimble is the President of the ICV chapter in Australia. Information regarding Ms. Brimble is available on the ICV website.

 

Photo Credits:

International Cruise Victims - photo of Dianne Brimble

"Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea

For the past many years, I have watched cruise lines respond to each disappearance at sea by blaming the passenger.

Selling Dreams of Carefree Vacations

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create the illusion of carefree vacation getaways where hard working Americans can relax, let their guard down, and forget the worries of city life. Passenger "disappearances" are inconsistent with the cruise industry’s marketing image which sells tickets.

When a passenger "disappears," there are a number of possible explanations.  Was foul play involved?  Did the passenger act carelessly due to alcohol?  Was the intoxication due to the cruise line's negligence in over-serving the passenger to make the targeted profits for the cruise?  Or was the disappearance due to a plan by the passenger to end his or her life?   

The possibilities are many but the cruise lines' conclusions are few. Cruise ships are quick to attack the passengers’ character and to steer blame away from themselves when a passenger goes overboard.

Merrian Carver - Royal Caribbean Cover Up, Stonewalling, and the Big Lie

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s Dad, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence.  Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public.  The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story.  In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide." 

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line's lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean's self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver?  Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian's death.  

George Smith IV - Attack the Victim

I witnessed the same type of corporate thuggery while representing Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith of Greenwich Connecticut disappeared under suspicious circumstances during the couple’s honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. For months the Hagel and Smith families patiently waited for information explaining the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the healthy and handsome 26 year old man.

But when their frustration forced them to the press for answers, the cruise industry’s response was quick and brutal. Michael Crye, representing the International Council of Cruise Lines ( the predecessor to today’s Cruise Line International Association - "CLIA") told an AP reporter investigating the story " . . . its difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . ."

Carefully Planned Hit and Run Attacks By Cruise Line PR Departments 

These type of statements are not random or insensitive rants from low level employees. The cruise lines' PR departments carefully craft the announcements and issue them only after being run through their legal departments. The Merrian Carver "suicide" theory was issued by the Royal Caribbean corporate communications director only after being reviewed by the cruise line’s outside legal counsel. When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean's mis-handling of George Smith’s death, out trotted Mr. Crye - the vice president of the cruise trade organization and himself a lawyer. Mr. Crye issued the he-did-it-to-himself statement on behalf of the entire cruise industry (CLIA's motto is "one industry - one voice"), without a shred of evidence justifying such a conclusion.

Amber Malkuch - Holland America Lines' Attack Is Business as Usual  

The recent disappearance of Washington resident Amber Malkuch shows that little has changed. Amber was 45 when she sailed on the Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise ship Zaandam. On August 3, 2009, Amber disappeared. The usual protocol when a passenger disappears should be for the FBI or the state law enforcement authorities to board the vessel at the next port and to conduct an investigation. The period of time leading up to the cruise ship's arrival at the next port is critical because the cruise line controls the scene of the disappearance, the witnesses and all of the evidence. Before the authorities can conclude whether the "disappearance" resulted from an accident (due to the ship's negligence, or the passenger's carelessness or intoxication, or a combination of factors), foul play or suicide, they must first review the evidence and interview passengers and crew members.

But on August 4, 2009, before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that Amber probably took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was picked up by all of the major news outlets and reported prominently on FOX News and other news stations.

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying:

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Who Do You Trust?  The Alaskan State Troopers or the Cruise Line?

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence reveals?  In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of passenger overboards is the role of experts - the U.S. Coast Guard, the F.B.I., and other law enforcement authorities - not the cruise lines' PR departments.          

 

Photo credits:

Kendall Carver - photo of Merrian Carver

Kevin Wolf (AP) - photo of Maureen Smith, Michaeil Crye, Jennifer Hagel

Seattle Post Intelligencer - photo of Amber Malkuch

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship's negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as "DOHSA." In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters. So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death. However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant. The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child. If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing. This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow. Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear. Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters. The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice. In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA. The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization ("ICV") has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises. A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 89 years ago. In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 13,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the million of retired passengers and children who cruise annually. The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 13,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances? The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.