Ecstasy Tragedy: Clemson Student Knocked Off Radar Platform

There's more to the story regarding how 20 year old Kendall Wernet, a student at Clemson, died aboard the Carnival Ecstasy than the cruise line disclosed in its carefully crafted PR statement on Monday.

Carnival claimed that Mr. Wernet climbed up onto the cruise ship’s forward mast and "subsequently fell and landed on the deck." But Carnival left out some key facts from its statement.

Mr. Wernet was an outstanding student who was on an "awards cruise" with other top achieving students who decided to walk up to the radar platform at the end of the cruise, according to a news Carnival Ecstasy Radarstation in South Carolina, quoting the organization owner, Steve Acorn.

"They had seen a group up there the night before and thought it would be a good idea to go there at about 5 a.m. to see the sun rise over Miami," Mr. Acorn says. No drinking was involved.

Mr. Acorn tells WYFF News 4 that a small group of students decided to go to the "top of the front mast to watch the sunrise, and talk about how happy they were in their life, and started planning their next journeys . . . They had been up there for approximately 45 minutes, just talking about life. There had be no drinking or any drugs involved, during that time, or prior. They had witnessed 4-6 individuals do the same thing the previous night. It was not their original idea, and they thought they would do the same for the last night on the ship."

Mr. Acorn said that four students had laid down on the platform, but Mr. Wernet had not. When the radar disc was turned on and began to rotate, it knocked Mr. Wernet to the deck below.

Given the Carnival reputation for out-of-control partying, there was wide-spread speculation that alcohol was involved in the accident. Carnival's press release about the student "climbing up the mast" created the false image that Mr. Wernet was perhaps a drunk and reckless person, like a scene out of Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan climbs to the top of the Jenny shrimp boat.

Carnival claims that the area was "restricted" which raises more questions than provides answers.

Were the "restrictions" enforced? Other students had reportedly gone up on the radar platform the night before without consequence. The students had also reportedly been up on the platform for 45 minutes before the accident. Where were the cruise line security personnel? Was the area protected by a locked door or security fence? Were alarms in place? Were CCTV cameras covering the area and were the cameras monitored? Or was the area "protected" by just a sign?

Carnival needs to spend more time providing greater security measures and protecting its guests rather than writing incomplete and misleading PR statements to protect its reputation.

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

October 2 2014 Update: "Personal responsibility" proponents keep in mind that a corporations is considered to be a "person" in the eyes of the law.  Unfortunately many people (see below) don't hold corporations to the same standard as a person.  They use the term "personal responsibility" to mean "no corporate responsibility." Of course the passengers have a legal obligation to use reasonable care for their own safety, but corporations also have the legal duty to use reasonable care for their guests' safety. They go hand in hand. The greater the risk of danger to the passengers, the higher the care owed by the cruise line to the passengers. Carnival apparently used only a "restricted area" sign. It did not cordon off the entrance, didn't use a lock, didn't use an alarm, didn't use CCTV cameras, didn't monitor the area, didn't use security personnel, etc.) The cruise line used virtually no reasonable care at all. It just posted a sign, and if all the sign said was "restricted area" that's not much of a warning.

Does anyone have up close photos of the sign and entrance to the mast / radar tower?

     

 

Photo Credit: RyG's Cruise Guide

Agony on the Ecstasy: What Causes People to be Cruel in Times of Tragedy?

Yesterday was the worst day in the lives of a family from North Carolina. A 20 year old fell twenty to thirty feet from a mast on the Carnival Ecstasy at the port of Miami. The young man was later pronounced dead at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

What started as a tropical dream vacation instantly turned into a nightmare. 

The local news stations rushed teams of reporters and film crew over to the port to cover the sad story. The reporters were all solemn and respectful in their tone and demeanor while covering the tragedy.

Carnival EcstasyI wrote a short article about what happened and posted it on Facebook

Cruel and hateful comments soon followed.

Joanna Medvesek commented: "WTF was he doing up there in the first place. Some people are just plain stupid. Did it not even enter his pea brain that it was RESTRICTED because it may be dangerous. Serves him right."

Samantha Mills de Rosas said "Idiot . . . Sorry no sympathy from me here."

Troy Madsen called the dead young man a "dumb ass."

Monte Mathews called him a "moron."

Ms. Medvesek's cruelty was "liked" by 14 others on Facebook. Saying that a young person involved in an accident deserves to die ("serves him right") infuriates me. It literally spikes my blood pressure. How can people be so uncaring and abusive?

But others who commented on Facebook were kind. 

Marianne Fearnside, who lost her son last year during a ferry cruise, summed up my feelings perfectly, saying "how very sad."

Leslie Hall was obviously troubled by all of the selfish and mean-spirited comments. She gave the matter some sensitive and meaningful thoughts:

"A man fell to his death on the Fantasy during my first cruise several years ago. He had been extremely verbal throughout the entire cruise, loud, obnoxious, he stayed hammered the whole time, and spent his evenings at the various bars complaining to everyone about how he didn't want to work in the family business. One evening he decided that he should do handstands off the atrium balcony after a night of drinking and it ended in his death. Needless to say, even after witnessing his behavior throughout the whole trip, I could never think of a reason why it would have "served him right" to be dead.

That's what's wrong with so many people in this country these days - empathy and humanity have been replaced with the ease of speaking the hatred in their hearts without thinking first. For the [selfish], inhuman people who think death is deserved just because someone entered a restricted area, I truly hope no one close to you ever dies due to a sudden accident. I'm sure you wouldn't walk up to his grieving parents at the wake and shake their hand and say 'well, the moron deserved it'. No one should break the rules and go into a restricted area, of course, but by no means does that give any imperfect human being the right to place judgment on his lost life."

25 people on Facebook "liked" Ms. Hall's comments. Others left respectful comments offering their blessings to his family. 

I can offer no explanation for the wide disparity between the hateful words of some and the compassionate words of others.

September 30 2014 UpdateUSA TODAY reports that the young man "had been on an awards cruise for Macomb, Mich-based Student Painters, the company's owner, Steve Acorn, said Tuesday. A group of five or six climbed up on the platform as the Carnival Ecstasy returned to port at the end of a three-day cruise. "They had seen a group up there the night before and thought it would be a good idea to go there at about 5 a.m. to see the sun rise over Miami," he said. No drinking was involved. "They were up there talking ... and the radar system went on," Acorn said. "Based on where you were standing, it caught Kendall and threw him down."

Have a thought? Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Local 10 via Cruise Fever

German Cruise Ship Showered By Rocket Debris From Israeli - Hamas Dispute

The murder of the three Jewish boys in the West Bank last week was about the worst thing I have heard of recently until learning of the retaliatory murder of the 16 year old Palestinian boy whose burned body was found in East Jerusalem.  

Hamas and Israel are now exchanging rocket and bomb strikes. 

This afternoon, a Facebook friend working on a cruise ship contacted me saying that a German TV Israeli Hamas Rockertschannel reported that the German cruise ship AIDA DIVA was hit by debris from rockets fired between the Israel & Hamas forces. 

There are several news accounts of the incident (below) but it is less than clear who is shooting at whom at this point. 

Read for yourself what the news reports are saying:

Massive Attack - "Aida Diva" in Rocket Fire.

Rocket Parts Meet "Aida Diva."

German Passenger Cruise Ship Under Rocket Attack in Israel.

The mother of the dead Palestinian boy and the mother of one of the Jewish boys are pleading for a cease-fire. 

 

Photo Credit: AP/dpa via express.de

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

Will NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

Last month Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) pulled its cruise ships out of Tunis after Tunisian officials at the port prohibited Israeli passengers from entering the country.  

It could have been confusion over visa and immigration issues, but NCL issued a stern public statement condemning what it perceived as discrimination against its Jewish clients. 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act . . . "

Yesterday we were the first to report that a Filipino crew member was shot and killed in Roatan. A bandito gunned the crew member down for his cell phone. The crew member bled to death on a main street near the port.

No, the crime was not unforeseeable. No, it was not rare. The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning. Since 2010 Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The New York Norwegian Pearl Cruise ShipTimes wrote about crime problems in Roatan in January. We published articles this year like this and this about the escalating armed violence in Roatan against U.S. citizens. Women and children have been terrorized by armed criminals in this deceivingly idyllic island. Now a crew employee is dead. 

How will NCL react?

Will NCL be outraged?  Will NCL tolerate such violence? Will NCL send a strong message to Roatan?

Is a Filipino crew member killed in Roatan worth the same as two dozen cruise guests discriminated against in Tunisia?

I certainly think so.  

Roatan has done little to address the armed robberies against cruise passengers and tourists this year. Its reward of a paltry $5,000 (U.S.) for the bad guy responsible for the death yesterday seems awfully meager. I suppose that an island where a criminal will kill for a $250 cell phone will be motivated by a $5,000 bounty for the killer. 

NCL's CEO must act decisively. Sheehan must pull his ships from Roatan. A message must be sent that this is unacceptable. 

Anything less will be an in insult to the NCL crew members and to the memory of Filipino crew member "Jacob."

April 8 2014 Update: NCL just posted this on its Facebook Page:

"Norwegian Cruise Line is shocked and saddened by the tragic death of a crew member from Norwegian Pearl in Roatan, Honduras on Sunday, April 6, 2014.

Police reports indicate the crew member was killed during an attempted robbery while in Roatan. Local officials are investigating and have the alleged suspect in custody.

In an abundance of caution for our guests and crew, we have cancelled calls to Roatan this week for Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Jewel.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the crew member."

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Read our prior article: NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras 

Praising its Captain and Ship, Cruise & Maritime Voyages Quickly Returns the Deadly Marco Polo Back to Sea

Just two days ago, the news broke about a wave smashing windows out in the Waldorf Restaurant aboard the Marco Polo cruise ship killing one elderly passenger and injuring a dozen passengers and crew members. Passengers disembarking the 49 year-old former-Russian vessel this morning complained about the poor condition of the cruise ship.

The widow of the passenger who died when the windows exploded in said that the ship was "badly maintained." The Daily Echo quoted her saying that ''There's so much paint on the outside you can't see the rust, they just slop some more on when they get to port."

Marco Polo PassengersBut seemingly just as soon as the passengers had disembarked the old ship, the Marco Polo was already preparing to leave on its next scheduled cruise.

The cruise ship's operator, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), was quick to issue a corporate PR statement downplaying the incident. It characterized the wave as a "freak" incident, a designation which was contradicted by numerous passengers who characterized the worsening rough weather as an ongoing process requiring them to ride the ship "like a bucking bronco."

CMV described the damage to the vessel as involving only a "small section of Marco Polo’s Waldorf Restaurant," but it neglected to mention that the entire restaurant was flooded with 3 to 5 inches of water. Today, somehow the ship had already completed the "required reparation works," and the cruise ship had already "been cleared to sail by the authorities."

Just who are the "authorities" who gave the old ship a green light to again sail on the same day that it returned to port after the deadly cruise?  The ship is registered in Nassau, Bahamas which could care less about inspecting the ship and will never conduct an analysis of the casualty nor issue a report for public reading.

Other basic questions need to be asked.

How were the "required reparation works" conducted so quickly during such a short turn-around?  Was the ship, constructed back in 1964, completely inspected from bow to stern by qualified experts? Were independent marine surveyors permitted to inspect the damage before the scene was altered?  Was the dead man's family members provided an opportunity to hire their own experts to assess the cause and origin of window failures?

If this casualty involved a U.S. commercial aviation incident where the windows of a Delta jet blew out causing death and injuries to the passengers and crew, the airplane would be shut down indefinitely pending an exhaustive inspection and analysis by the stringent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft manufacturer, component vendor companies, maintenance companies and other companies. Even the FBI would be a part of the investigation.

But this incident involved the largely unregulated "anything-goes" world of foreign-flagged cruise ships where the ships never stop and the cruise operator PR people are left to praise themselves rather than scrutinize what went wrong. 

CMV has already claimed that the wave was a "freak" which in legal terms means its was allegedly "unforeseeable" which CMV's lawyers will contend. The weather broadcasts, wind and sea forecasts, and nautical charts showing wind speed and wave heights are of no consequence it seems. The cruise operator has already settled on its defense strategy. The Marco Polo is already heading out to sea again.

CMV already boasts that its ship is allegedly in compliance with "strict" international maritime "requirements" (the International Maritime Organization has no authority to even enforce its own recommendations).  Remarkably, the cruise line praises its captain and officers who sailed into harm's way while inviting the elderly guests to sit like ducks next to the windows as the giant waves Marco Polo BBCcrashed upon the ship. 

Instead of such cheerleading and gushing praise, a criminal investigation should be initiated into whether manslaughter charges should be leveled against the captain, the navigational officers and the senior managers who permitted the passengers to sit precariously close to the restaurant windows under such dangerous circumstances.

The ship never should have been permitted to take new passengers aboard today. It should have been detained. The Marco Polo should be immediately returned to port and undergo a thorough and complete survey before it leaves port again anytime soon. 

February 18 2014 Update: A newspaper in the U.K. contains an interview of a couple of the cruise who "do not believe that the ordeal was the result of a freak wave but that of gale-force wind and said that there was an incident even on the first night of the 42-night cruise." A window blew in earlier.  A reader left this comment to the story:

We were on the ship too, in the restaurant and also found out that the man who died was our shipboard next door neighbour. I too take issue with the word 'freak' allowing commentators to write off the incident as tragic but one of those things. Others were seriously injured that day. If it was a freak wave it was one of a series . . . 
 

 

Photo Credits:

Marco Polo Passengers - BBC News

Marco Polo: BBC News / Martin Dalton

1 Dead, 12 Injured: Pandemonium After Wave Breaks Window & Floods Cruise Ship Restaurant

Marco Polo ITV NewsMore details are coming in about yesterday's deadly incident where a large wave crashed through a window on the Marco Polo cruise ship.

As we mentioned in our article yesterday, a 85 year old man and a woman in her 70s were airlifted from the ship. The man later died due to his injuries. 

A cruise passenger gave the following account to the U.K.'s Channel 4 News:

"We were sitting at a table in the Marco Polo's Waldorf restaurant, located on deck six of the cruise ship. The table was on the starboard side. Lunch was just being served and most people were waiting for their orders.

The seas, visible through the windows, were very rough. Waves were peaking nearly parallel to the windows. Furniture in the restaurant was beginning to shift, so people were holding on to tables and chairs.

Suddenly there was a very loud 'bang' and the daylight in the room reduced as a wall of seawater covered most of the starboard windows. The bang was the breaching of a forward window in the restaurant."

On leaving the restaurant, I went up three decks to my cabin, when another large wave hit the ship and I was thrown across a connecting passageway and ended up in a bundle against a wall.

I was rescued by fellow passengers who called the ships doctors and crew. I was stretchered to the sick bay four decks below with a cut head and extensive bruising."

ABC News aired the video here: 

 

Another account stated that sea water rushed through the broken windows and flooded the restaurant to a depth of about three to five inches.

In all 12 passengers and crew members sustained injuries.

There is no indication in any of these articles that the captain has issued warning to the passengers. The cruise line is playing the "freak wave" a/k/a the "rogue wave" defense, suggesting that the wave was unforeseeable. That's hardly true. Storms like this create cyclical patterns of waves where one out of one hundred waves or so is of a substantially large size and velocity. The vessel's officer and senior officers should not permit passengers, particularly elderly guests, into public areas with large windows which can be breached.

Other cruise ships encountering rough weather have experienced smashed windows which killed and seriously injured passengers. 

The Channel 4 video is below:

 

 

Photo Credit: Marco Polo -  ITV News

Former Journalist Falls from Cruise Ship, Dies

Bob Horn Cruise Ship DeathThe press in the U.K. is reporting that a former newspaper reporter from Sunderland, England drown "after falling overboard from a cruise ship in South America."

Cruise passenger Bob Horn reportedly was on an Atlantic cruise with his brother when he fell from the liner shortly after a visit to Montevideo in Uruguay.

Mr. Horn previously worked for the Sunderland Echo newspaper. 

The cruise ship has not been identified.

Photo Credit: Sutherland Echo

 

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

Crew Member From Bali Dies on Carnival Splendor

Wayan BarsianaThe Bali Discovery reports on the sad case of a young man who died at sea.

The 21-year-old Balinese man was working as a crew member on the Carnival Splendor and died shortly after joining the cruise ship.

Wayan Barsiana died on December 23, 2013 after joining the cruise ship on December 6, 2013.

The young man’s body was returned to his family in Bali three weeks later on January 13, 2014, after undergoing a post mortem examination. 

The Bali Discovery states that:

"The young man was said to be diligent in calling or texting his family and girlfriend on a daily basis, contact that suddenly stopped on December 21, 2013, when he told his family he had developed a cough. Two days later on December 23, 2104 a manager from Carnival Cruise Lines telephoned the mother to advise her son had died in his crew cabin."

The family reportedly received no further details regarding their son’s death. Wayan Barisana’s body was buried in his home village shortly after it was shipped back to Bali.

The Bali Seafarer's Centre Facebook page shows photographs of the return of the crew member's body home.

The KPI union and hiring agency in Indonesia contributed to the funeral expenses in respect for the family.

If you have a comment, please join the discussion about this article on our Facebook page.

Photo credits: Bali Discovery - top; Bali Seafarer's Centre - bottom. 

Death on Carnival Splendor

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.

.

"No Further Information is Available"

Miami Port - Cruise ShipThis weekend, KHOU news station reports from Galveston, Texas that the Carnival Triumph returned to port Saturday afternoon "after a passenger had a medical emergency."

KHOE didn't explain the medical emergency but reported that the U.S. Coast Guard said the medical emergency was not life-threatening, "so they did not fly out to the cruise ship." The cruise ship then told the Coast Guard that it would be "just easier for the ship to return to port and drop the passenger off."

That's the end of the reported story.

If that's not sufficiently uninformative, here's another one from Canada's Herald News: the police are investigating a "sudden death" aboard Holland America Line's Eurodam after a woman was found dead. 

The police in Canada said that the death of the 59-year-old passenger “is not considered suspicious at this time.” 

The newspaper also reports that medical examiner’s officer was called to the scene and "no further information is available."

Are you satisfied with this type of "news?"

Do you believe that the details of stories like this are any of your business? 

Do you think that the cruise lines and official authorities will tell you all you are entitled to know?

 

 Photo Credit: AP Photo / Andy Newman

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

Nassau Bahamas Killing Spree: Cruise Line Warns Passengers

The Nassau Guardian contains several articles this week about the high homicide rate in the Bahamas.

11 Murders in 12 Days blasts the headlines today.  All victims of hand gun violence. 80 murders in the Bahamas this year alone.  A substantially higher homicide rate than anywhere in the U.S. 

The newspaper articles refer to "crime has become an everyday occurrence in the capital's city center" with "a cruise ship has resorted to telling their guests not to move around with cash . . ." 

Crime Nassau Bahamas - Cruise ShipThis is hardly surprising to people who know the Bahamas.

Violent crime remains a major problem in Nassau.  It's amazing that cruise lines like Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise there. What parents would take their families there if they knew the true extent of the crime in this port?

But there is great money to be made by the cruise lines in this island. Unrealistically low passenger head taxes by the Bahamas means great profits for the cruise executives who load the ships up with sheep-like passengers and fleece them of their money with over-priced drinks and cruise excursions.

It's a problem we have written about lots of time both in Bahamas and the Caribbean.  Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

A knowledgeable blogger recently summed up the mess in Nassau:

The social fabric of the Bahamas is being undone, and nothing can fix it. Crime is out of control. The scary part is that they will kill you after they rob you. An American tourist was shot dead two weeks ago. You take your life into your own hands when you visit the Bahamas.

My view?  It's only a matter of time before an unsuspecting cruise passenger becomes one of the homicide statistics.    

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider

Watch the video of the FlowRider at the top.  Looks like fun doesn't it?  The rider surfs on the water and never wipe-outs. Easy right?

Not at all. The person in the video is a skilled and experienced Royal Caribbean employee who has spent many hours riding the FlowRider.

Now take a look at the second video at the bottom when a novice tries to surf on the FlowRider. Beware, don't look if you can't stomach a gruesome accident. It's serious. "Ouch" is an understatement. 

The FlowRider is exceedingly dangerous. It has caused at least one death on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and many broken bones.  

Royal Caribbean uses experienced, athletic crew members like the one on the video at top to ride the FlowRider while the passengers first embark on the Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and other cruise ships. This attracts the passengers to come back and make reservations for private lessons which can cost up to $480 an hour.  The FlowRider is a major money maker for the cruise line. 

Read about the FlowRider and holding Royal Caribbean responsible when cruise passengers are seriously injured on the cruise line's money making attraction:

Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents     

  

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

Cruise Safety Advocate Paul O'Brien Dies

Paul O'Brien Death - Father of Lynsey O'BrienA newspaper in Ireland, the Irish Independent, reports today on the death of Paul O'Brien, age 49, in an article "Dad of Tragic Cruise Teen is Found Dead."

Mr. O'Brien was the father of Lynsey O'Brien, who died at age 15 during a cruise aboard the Costa Magica in 2006. Costa bartenders served the child 10 drinks in a short period of time. According to a newspaper in Ireland, "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."

The child fell off of her cabin's balcony after trying to vomit overboard. Her body has never been found. 

Lynsey's case was the focus of a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. in 2006 about cruise ship dangers. The hearing highlighted the out-of-control nature of drinking on cruise ships and the failure of the cruise line to have man overboard procedures.

The newspaper states that the cause of Mr. O'Brien's death will be confirmed by an autopsy. The newspaper states that Mr. O'Brien "fought tirelessly for better safety on cruise ships."  He released a book about his daughter's death called Lynsey's Law - Costa Coffin Cruise Ships.

You can watch a ABC News video about the incident below:

 

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.

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Cruise Ship Passenger Dies in Cayman Islands - Third Cruise Death in Caymans in 18 Months

Cruise Ship Passenger Death - Cayman IslandsThe Associated Press reports that a cruise ship passenger from New York state has died at a beach in the Cayman Islands.

According to the newspaper, police in the Cayman Islands identified the victim as Louis Janvier DeBiase of Deer Park.

Police say that Mr. DeBiase, age 81, lost consciousness while swimming in waters at Grand Cayman. 

This is the third cruise ship passenger who has died in a similar fashion in the waters of the Cayman Islands in the last eighteen months.  You can read about the others incidents below: 

Cruise Passenger Found Dead in Cayman Islands

Another Cruise Passenger Found Dead In Cayman Islands Waters

 

Photo Credit: photos4travel / @patrix99

Passenger from Sea Spirit Cruise Ship Killed During Artic Excursion

Sea Spirit - Quark - Cruise Ship A newspaper in Norway reports that a cruise ship passenger was killed and three other passengers were injured while on an Artic cruise excursion. The incident occurred when a rubber inflatable boat (a Zodiac) was swamped by a wave in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, causing all 13 people to go into icy Arctic waters.

The accident involved passengers from the Sea Spirit who were being taken on a sightseeing excursion. The deceased passenger was a U.S.  woman in her 60's. She was examined by the cruise ship doctor. A rescue helicopter was sent but the woman was pronounced dead, Two other passengers were flown in the helicopter to a hospital at Longyearbyen for treatment.

The Sea Spirit cruise ship is operated by Quark Expeditions

 

Photo Credit: Cruising Holidays

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

This weekend, there was a "near drowning" of a 4 year old boy on Disney's Fantasy cruise ship.  

The incident reportedly occurred during the afternoon when a family boarded the Disney cruise ship and before the ship sailed. The boy was pulled from the pool, apparently non-responsive, and had to be taken to an emergency room at the Cape Canaveral Hospital, and then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Fortunately this happened while the ship was in port so the child could be rushed to receive emergency medical treatment rather than a few hours later on the high Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Pool Near Drowningseas where no such assistance would have been possible.

The latest word I heard was that the boy had survived, and was stable and recovering.

The parents of the child were reportedly not at the pool but arrived when the boy was rescued. The parents were soundly criticized by cruise fans on the Disney boards and the Cruise Critic on-line community.

People have posted comments on my article on Facebook criticizing the parents. Some say things like there are no lifeguards on any cruise ships, which all parents should know. Others say that the passenger ticket states that the cruise line does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising out of swimming pools. Still other say that there are signs on cruise ships saying that there are no lifeguards on duty and that swimming is at the passenger's risk.

I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility, having two boys who my wife and I are raising. But I also understand that the law also demands corporate responsibility as well. It's easy to criticize a parent when a child is injured; we are all perfect parents when it's not our child, aren't we? But I find that those people who are quick to blame parents when kids are injured and who talk incessantly about "personal responsibility" are the first to defend corporate malfeasance and use the term "personal responsibility" as code words for condoning the complete absence of "corporate responsibility."     

Cruise lines like Disney have legal responsibility to parents and children on Disney cruise ships. A "no lifeguard on duty" sign does not legally exonerate a cruise line, or a hotel, or an amusement park.  It simply raises the issue whether the sign was legally conspicuous enough to provide an effective warning to the parents.   

It is inexcusable for Disney not to assign multiple lifeguards around the ship's pools. Is it correct that Disney Cruise Line has no lifeguards at all?  If so, that's reckless. Yes, parents need to be responsible, but they will make errors. Reasonable safety can exist only when there is both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. 

A friend brought to my attention that Disney advertises that it has well-trained lifeguards on its cruise ships and in its parks.

In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here's what Disney states:   

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification Disney Resort Drowning Deathtraining every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Is this bait-and-switch?  Does Disney tell the public that its kid-friendly resorts and ships have well trained lifeguards but in reality it does not have any?

Last month, a 13 year-old boy died at a Disney amusement resort near Epcot which had no lifeguard. You can read about that death here.

Disney issued a statement after the dream-vacation turned into a nightmare. The Imperfect Parent quotes Disney saying that it was "saddened" by the death and " . . . our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones. We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time.” 

Families don't need after-the-fact condolences.  They don't need "no lifeguard" signs. They need some of the 1,200 lifeguards who Disney claims it trains each year doing their jobs at the pools in the Disney resorts and on the Disney cruise ships so that no other children are killed or seriously injured when their parents are imperfect.

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page about this issue

 

Photo Credits:

Disney Fantasy cruise ship pool - Fodors

Disney resort pool - Wikipedia via Daily Mail 

Murder Aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantmemt of the Seas Cruise Ship MurderLast night I received an email from a person who follows cruising who received information that there may have been what is being described as a "murder / suicide" on an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There was a vague posting of the alleged incident on the Disney boards

This morning I received another email from a passenger who just disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship.  The person's email is as follows:

"Just got off Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. They were detaining everyone on the 7Th floor and the police were there collecting statements. The crew wouldn't say what was going on but other passengers said there was a murder/death on the 7th fl. Post if you hear anything about it."

My understanding is that the Enchantment OTS is moored in Baltimore at the moment.  

Enchantment of the Seas Cabin 7110If you have any information about this alleged incident, please leave a message or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Update March 25 2013:  I received the following information this morning from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:

The deceased person is reportedly a woman in her 60's who allegedly was found on the floor by her husband.    

She reportedly had fallen inside the cabin earlier the same evening and hit her head and went to bathroom where she fell again this is when husband called for help. Nurses arrived to the cabin to attend the situation however she was pronounced dead at 5 AM.

(Please note that I cannot verify any of this information or any comments below). 

The cabin was thereafter sealed at some point until arrival into port where investigations will begin.

We were also provided with a copy of a photo of the door of the cabin in question which shows a plexi-glass cover over the key hole and key card slot with a lock around the handle.  

The FBI has told news stations in Baltimore that there are "suspicious undertones" surrounding the death.

A local CBS news station in Baltimore aired a short video on the investigation.

March 28, 2013 Update: The AP is reporting that an "autopsy shows that a Virginia woman found dead aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died of natural causes.

FBI spokesman Rich Wolf has identified the woman as 64-year-old Katherine Kennedy, of Midlothian, Va. He says Kennedy died of heart disease.

Her husband found her dead Sunday in her cabin on the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. FBI agents met the ship when it arrived in Baltimore on Monday to begin investigating the unexplained death.

Wolf says Kennedy also had a laceration on her forehead, but authorities determined that she got the cut when she fell down. They said it had nothing to do with her death."

Photo Credit:

Top: Rageousgtx at en.wikipedia

Bottom: Anonymous

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.

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."  
 

Where Is CLIA When Disaster Strikes?

It has been a brutal week for the cruise industry. Consider the developments over the last week:

A 24 year old dancer from Massachusetts died aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. Her body was found when the cruise ship docked in Australia.

Two passengers went overboard from MSC cruise ships in the last couple of days.  The body of a 46-year old passenger from the MSC Divina was pulled from the water but a 30 year old man who went overboard from the MSC Fantasia this weekend has not been located.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA Five crewmembers are dead and three injured when a cable snapped as a lifeboat was being raised aboard the Thomson Majesty in the Canary Islands.

Yesterday, the Carnival Triumph lost power after an engine room fire disabled the ship.  The cruise ship is now being towed to port in Progreso, Mexico while the guests have no running water or air-conditioning and are having to poop in bags.  

So where are the reassuring words from the cruise industry's leadership? Where's the don't-worry-cruise-fans these are just rare mishaps in the remarkably safe world of cruising?

So far no word from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which now seemingly has every cruise line in the world as a member.  Nothing either from CLIA's CEO Christine Duffy.  Does CLIA and its CEO work on weekends when the lifeboats and passengers are falling and the ships catch fire?

I suppose all of this must be embarrassing to the marketing and public relations people at CLIA. After the Concordia disaster, CLIA announced 10 new safety proposals with great fanfare. One of them had to do with lowering lifeboats with only a few essential crewmembers aboard to avoid unnecessary injuries and deaths. But it seems that this was just a proposal which the cruise lines could ignore.  Why were 8 men sitting like guinea pigs in the lifeboat as it is winched up to the 22 year old ship when the cable snapped?

So how does CLIA handle this mess?  It seems like CLIA is about as responsive to the disastrous week in cruising as Captain Schettino was in responding to his sinking ship. Its hide-under-the-bed PR.

Eventually the executives at Carnival and Royal Caribbean making tens of millions a year will send some talking points over to CLIA.  Then we will hear talk about the remarkable safety record of the cruise industry. Maybe CLIA will announce a Blue Ribbon Lifeboat or Fire Safety Task Force or something equally obtuse but official sounding.

Meanwhile eight families are mourning their dead loved ones and a boatload of families stuck on the disabled Triumph are being towed back to Mexico.   

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

Is Cruising Safe? Depends On Who You Ask.

I read a tweet this evening which caught my eye:

"Is Cruising Safe?"  

I noticed that it was by Jane Wooldridge who many of you know as the business editor of the Miami Herald. I have been critical of the Miami Herald and its reporters who, like Ms. Wooldridge, are careful not to criticize the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean which contribute substantially to their newspaper's advertising revenues.

Actually the tweet did not refer to an article in the Herald at all. Instead it linked to an article in Travel + Cruise Ship SafetyLeisure where Ms. Wooldridge answers her own question by assuring us that cruise ships accidents resulting in death are "very rare" and that the Concordia shipwreck was an "anomaly."  These are exactly the talking points that the cruise industry sent to its friends in the travel industry immediately after the Concordia hit the rocks a year ago. 

Ms. Wooldridge goes so far as to suggest that the recent safety proposals of having safety drills before cruising, keeping strangers out of the bridge and other long overdue basic practices may "eliminate such incidents altogether."

Now I am accustomed to delusional puff pieces like this from travel publication editors (Mr. Woolridge is also editor of Travel + Leisure). The most notorious pro-cruise puff pieces come from cruise cheerleader Carolyn Spencer-Brown, who is editor of the Expedia/Travel Advisor owned Cruise Critic publication. She loves to say that cruising is "absolutely safe."

The truth is that there have been far more deaths on cruise ships over the course of the past five years than other forms of major transportation. The U.S. based commercial aviation industry is remarkably safe.  The airlines had strict pre-flight checklists and safety procedures 50 years ago. And needless to say, the aviation industry never let the pilot's girlfriends hang out in the cockpit or permit jets to buzz towns for fun.  

Cruise lines also have a major problem with crimes committed by employees and drunk passengers against women and children. The chance of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being raped ashore. Airlines, railroads and buses simply do not have these types of problems.

Do you really think that public relations inspired proposals promoted in a travel magazine will prevent the next deadly cruise ship collision or shipboard fire?  Do you think that the new rules will Cruise Ship Safety protect your little girl from a pedophile male cabin attendant with a key card to your cabin?    

If you want sunshine blown up your caboose, then rely on Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown for an answer to the question "is cruising is safe?"  I guarantee that you will receive no real facts but lots of wonderful adjectives that accidents are "rare" and cruising is "absolutely" safe.

But if you want facts upon which base your own conclusions, check around for information from sources like Sociology Professor Ross Klein's informative website, or check out the website of the non-profit  International Cruise Victims, or read some of our articles about cruise ship accidents, deaths, sexual assault of women and molestation of children which the cruise lines and travel writers would prefer you not know.

Since 2005 I have been to seven Congressional hearings regarding cruise ship safety, including the last two hearings following the Costa Concordia disaster (photo above right). A half-dozen of my clients testified about the issue of whether cruise ships are safe.

I have not seen Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown at any of the hearings. 

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

Third Oasis-Class Cruise Ship: Bad for Environment, Bad for U.S., Great for Lawyers & Cruise CEO's

Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas FlowRider Royal Caribbean Cruises just announced a third Oasis-class cruise ship will be built at the South Korea-owned shipyard STX France after the financing fell through with the STX Finland shipyard.  

The as-of-yet unnamed gigantic ship will follow fellow behemoths the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas which are ported in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

CEO Richard Fain, who just sold $11,500,000 worth of RCL stock, proclaimed that "these ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results . . . "

The new billion-dollar-plus cruise ship is expected to come on line sometime in mid to late 2016. STX France provided Royal Caribbean with a one-year option to build a fourth Oasis-class ship with a 2018 delivery date. 

There is speculation where the new ship will be ported, with the South Florida Business Journal proposing Miami where Royal Caribbean is based and U.K. travel blogger Captain Greybeard raising the possibility of deploying the ship to the Mediterranean or the Far East.

What's my take on another "Giant of the Seas" arriving on the scene? First, its a continuing disaster for the environment. The supposedly most technologically advanced cruise ships in the world still burn highly toxic high-sulfur-content bunker fuel. And small Caribbean islands are forced to destroy ancient coral Allure of the Seas - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbeanreefs as a price to pay from the privilege of hosting these enormous floating cities into their small ports.

The multi-billion dollar deal enormously benefits South Korea and France. The off-shore building project represents another drain of money and jobs from the U.S. to the South Korean conglomerate which owns the shipyard in France. 

The arrival of one or two additional Oasis-class ships will carry 5,000 to 10,000 additional cruise passengers. They will be trying to stay safe on the ship's various attractions like the rock-climbing wall, the zip-line and the incredibly dangerous FlowRiders which have caused serious injury and even death over the years.   

One would hope that the cruise line takes greater care in designing these amusement-park-like attractions to avoid the risk of serious injury.  Because as matters now stand, Royal Caribbean's gigantic sized cruise ships are good news only for the cruise line's executives and the personal injury lawyers representing the injured passengers.  

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

Royal Caribbean's Dangerous FlowRider: Is the Cruise Line Drafting a New Liability Waiver?

One of the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise is found only on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. It's the "FlowRider," a simulated surfing and water-boarding activity where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.

Wipe-outs are expected. But what is not expected are the serious, life-altering injuries and, sometimes, even death.

You can see one such serious accident in the video below, where a young man falls on his neck. 

A considerable number of cruise passengers have been seriously injured on the Flowrider, which Royal Caribbean helped design and install on five of its cruise ships: one FlowRider on each of the Freedom class cruise ships (Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) and two on each of the Oasis class ships (Allure of he Seas and Oasis of the Seas).    

You will read absolutely no warnings about the dangers of the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's website. Nor will you see any warnings whatsoever posted around the FlowRiders on any of the cruise ships. Even after a passenger was killed when he fell while trying to surf, the cruise line decided not to warn cruise passengers that the activity is, well, deadly

The cruise line's approach to the problem has been to require all passengers who participate in the activity to sign an electronic liability waiver. The process of scrolling through the electronic keypad in a long line is so quick that it's clear that no one reads the waiver. Moreover, the waiver is legally invalid. Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeal struck down the Royal Caribbean waiver finding that it violated federal law (46 U.S.C 30509) which prohibits contract provisions that attempt to absolve a shipping company from its own negligence.  

At the moment, Royal Caribbean has an illegal waiver, and still no warnings on-line or warnings posted around the FlowRider.   

So what is the cruise line thinking? 

Some people think that Royal Caribbean may be going back to the drawing board to try and draft a new waiver.     

In a recent message thread on the website of the popular on-line cruise community Cruise Critic, there is discussion that the cruise line is working on creating a new and improved liability waiver - apparently for the purpose of trying to navigate around the statutory prohibition found in 46 U.S.C. 30509.  

If that's true, the new waiver will be struck down too. It's too bad that the cruise line won't post warning signs on its website or on the seven FlowRiders on its cruise ships. There are lots of people who don't understand just how dangerous this activity is.

If Royal Caribbean is going to be the only cruise line promoting this dangerous activity, it needs to spend less time drafting illegal waivers and more time drafting effective warnings before the next unsuspecting passenger steps on a surf board and breaks his neck.     

 

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:

  

 

 

Meningitis Kills MSC Orchestra Crew Member, Cruise Ship Cook Remains on Life Support

On October 8, 2012, we reported on four crew members aboard the MSC Orchestra who were sickened with meningitis

According to AFP in Rome, today one of the crew members, Ermandiasa Gede, age 32 from Indonesian, died of the infection nine days after being hospitalized.

Two of the other crew members, a 26-year-old Brazilian crew member and a 32-year-old Filipino, reportedly recovered. However, the fourth sick crew member, a 47-year-old Italian cook, remains on life support.

 

LPG Tanker - Ferry Collision Leaves 8 Passengers Dead

Bahuga Jaya SinkingEight passengers from the cruise ferry Bahuga Jaya are reported dead after a collision in Indonesian waters.

The LPG tanker Norgas Cathinka struck and sank the Bahuga Jaya, which is a Ro-Ro passenger cruise ferry vessel, near the port of Merak, Indonesia. 

The accident took place on Wednesday. Eight passengers on the cruise ferry were initially reported missing. Seven bodies were located and one passenger was found still alive but later died in the hospital.

The large LPG tanker is operated by IM Skaugen Group member Norgas Carriers Pte Ltd of Singapore.

September 29, 2012 Update: Vessl Tracker has this information:

"30 people were still missing on Sep 28, two days after the sinking of the 2Jaya Bugha" with more than two hundred people on board off Sumatra. Eight bodies have been recovered so far, while 207 people have been rescued. The number of passengers and crew was not accurately known. 30 people were reported missing by relatives. The possibility that they survived was very low. The ferry was carrying about 78 vehicles in which passengers might have remained trapped."

 

 

Photo credit: Harian Terbit

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

The maritime lawyers here in Miami have been in a state of outrage following a recent decision from an appellate court in the Estate of Tore Myhra v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 10-15840 (11th Cir. Sept. 21, 2011).

This case addressed the issue of whether a cruise line could legally enforce a "forum selection clause" transferring the lawsuit to a court outside of the U.S., if the effect of the transfer were to limit the cruise line's liability for personal injury or death occurring on cruises.

There is a federal statute which clearly prohibits cruise lines from doing this. 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) states that attempts to limit liability by contractual terms in cases where the cruise ship calls on a U.S. port are illegal and unenforceable.

In the Myhra v. Royal Caribbean case, a passenger contracted what is described as a bacterial infection on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship which led to his death. His widow filed suit in Miami where all lawsuits against this cruise line are filed. But the cruise line moved to dismiss the case, citing terms buried deep in the the passenger ticket which specified the U.K. as the location for the lawsuit.

The lawyers for Mr. Myhra's widow argued that the fine print terms in the passenger ticket were not reasonably communicated to Mr. Myhra, and even if they were, because the U.K. adopted the Athens Convention limiting the liability of cruise lines to a maximum of $75,000 (even including death cases), this clause violated 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a).        

But the Eleventh Circuit held that 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) was not violated. In a tortuously reasoned opinion, it held that because it was not the cruise line limiting its liability, but rather a foreign country (the U.K.) which provided limited damages, the transfer to the U.K. didn't violate 30509(a). This is a rather circuitous argument. After all, it was Royal Caribbean which inserted the U.K. into the ticket as the chosen forum. It did so because it knew that Britain would afford only limited damages to passengers in cases of injury and death.

The South Florida Lawyers blog covered the story. An anonymous reader commented that the decision was "more intellectual dishonesty from the 11th Circuit." Curiously, in a footnote to the decision, the court held that a different result might be reached if the passengers were a U.S. citizen who bought his ticket in the U.S., as opposed to a Brit who bought his ticket in Britain.

Tore Myhra - Royal Caribbean Cruises - Cruise ShipThe case will be remembered as a result-oriented decision where the xenophobic appellate court's priority was to send the case away from the U.S. based on whatever justification it could scrap together.

But there is more to the story. 

Mr. Myhra was not just an average passenger. He was the former Captain (i.e., Master) of several Royal Caribbean cruise ships. He mastered the Monarch of the Seas and was a captain of one of the cruise line's first cruise ships, the Song of America.

By all accounts, Captain Myhra was a skilled mariner, a dedicated Royal Caribbean employee and a well respected captain who was liked by his fellow officers and crew members on the cruise ships on which he served as Master.

In 1998, Captain Myhra bravely sailed the Monarch of the Seas into the harbor in St. Maarten in the middle of the night to bring a sick passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment. But while the cruise ship was sailing out under the command of another officer, the vessel went off course and ran across a reef. The ship sustained heavy damage to the hull and began to take on water. Captain Myhra took command of the ship and ground it to keep it from sinking.

In 1999, Captain Myhra resigned from Royal Caribbean. Even though he was not at the helm when the ship hit the reef, he took responsibility. Thereafter he began a successful camping business called Rose Farm Touring & Camping Park in England with his wife, Susan, and their daughter.

A decade later, Captain Myhra returned to a Royal Caribbean cruise ship not as the captain but as a passenger with his wife aboard the Liberty of the Seas. Captain Myhra was exposed to Legionnaires Disease along with another passenger due to the negligent manner that the cruise line maintained its water supplies.  Although infected, he was kept aboard the cruise ship until the end of the cruise, only to die in a public hospital the next day.

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, but ended his life sickened on a Royal Caribbean ship as a passenger.   

But the irony and injustice does not stop there. Captain Myhra and his wife, Sue, a cruise ship purser herself on Royal Caribbean ships, were "Loyal-to-Royal" friends to the cruise line. They were part of the Royal Caribbean "family."  I'm sure CEO Richard Fain knew them both on a first name basis.

But when Master Myhra died due to exposure to Legionnaires Disease on the Royal Caribbean ship, the cruise line treated his widow and child shabbily.  

Royal Caribbean denied liability and tried to place the blame elsewhere. It could have stepped up to the plate and paid Ms. Myhra and her daughter a reasonable settlement and wished its friends and family members well.  But instead, it paid its defense lawyers in Miami a vast sum of money to try and kick the lawsuit, which Ms. Myhra was forced to file, out of the U.S.

In the end result today, Royal Caribbean beat its former captain's widow and child in a court of law. The appellate court pronounced that their lawsuit for the wrongful-death-by-Legionnaire's-Disease-on-a-Miami-based-cruise-ship is somehow not welcome here in Miami where Royal Caribbean is headquartered.

What a sad spectacle. 

Cruise line CEO Fain and President Adam Goldstein earned over $12,000,000 in 2010 while their cruise ships reduced costs across the fleet, including cost reductions due to fewer tests of its potable water on the Liberty of the Seas and other ships. Meanwhile Ms. Myhra is left to seek compensation in the U.K. for her dead husband and the dead father of her daughter.

After attorney fees and costs, the net compensation will turn into peanuts.

Rough Weather Lawsuit: A Lynch Mob Forms at USA TODAY's CruiseLog

Last week I mentioned a compensation claim filed in the U.K. at London's High Court following the death of a doctor, Michael Bedford, age 70, who lost his life while cruising as a passenger aboard the MV Athena. Dr. Bedford fell down a flight of stairs on the cruise ship as it sailed to North America during a storm. He later died due to his injuries.   

The gist of the claim is that the cruise ship was negligent in not heeding weather warnings or providing safety warnings to the doctor and other passengers. Sixteen passengers are also suing for injuries claimed in the rough weather.

There was not a lot of information on BBC News which mentioned the death.  So I can't comment on the specifics of the storm and the details of the ensuing death and multiple injuries.  But Athena Cruise Ship - Storm - Lawsuitthere are some generalizations which I have learned over the years handling injury and death cases due to rough weather.

First, most injuries are entirely preventable. If the navigational officers utilize their available systems and convey meaningful and timely warnings to the passengers and crew, all passengers and crew should be ordered to stay in their cabins until the high winds and rough waves pass.  All activities on the cruise ship - like dinners, shows, casinos - should be shut down and there should be no one walking around the ship.  

The situation is particularly serious when elderly quests are involved.  Some cruise lines have standardized procedures requiring crew members to be positioned near stairwells and elevators to make certain that the passengers get safely back to their cabins when a storm strikes. 

Maritime law requires cruise ships to exercise the highest degree of care to its guests when rough weather strikes.

Dr. Bedford's wife stated that "Michael was a disciplinarian and would have stayed in his cabin if he was told to do so by the ship's Captain."

No one should forget the two deaths and serious injuries to 14 passengers on the Louis Majesty cruise ship during rough weather in the Mediterranean where passenger were permitted to freely walk around the cruise ship. No one would have died if the officers warned the passengers and instructed them to return to their cabins.

A similar incident occurred two years ago where a passenger died and multiple passengers were injured during rough weather which struck the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as it was heading to port in Egypt.  The cruise line denied all liability but thereafter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and the Royal Caribbean captain was relieved of his command.    

So it was disturbing today to see the flippant and disrespectful comments to the account of the deadly storm tossed cruise ship in the popular USA TODAY cruise log by Gene Sloan.  Here are the reader comments:

Steve Clouther - Please, give me a break  . . The cruise line should sue them for attempting to tarnish their reputation.

Mona Graham - . . .  this is ridiculous.

Martin Lynn Vogel - Lawyers are vultures.

Chip Gay -· The judge better throw it out or you will see lawsuit rain. I got hurt on a passenger train, because of the thunderstorm. I was on a bus and we did some hydroplaining (sic) and it made me poop my pants .  .  . 

Hanno Phoenicia - Please put these passengers and their lawyers on a leaky boat and throw them overboard.

Corcho Ekim - Drown the crybabies.

Even the moderator of the cruise blog, Gene Sloan, got into the fun with a comment on Twitter: Says one @CruiseLog reader of lawsuit over stormy weather on cruise across Atlantic: "What a bunch of nonsense!"

Of course, there is nothing nonsensical where someone dies on a cruise ship, particularly an elderly passenger trying to navigate a flight of stairs during rough weather, apparently without assistance.

The disturbing thing about the Cruise Log comments is that there was no debate, no difference of opinion, no intelligent discourse, no understanding of the laws which govern the situation, and no interest in being informed. Only contempt for the dead and injured, seemingly egged on by its moderator.

 

Photo Credit:  Athena Cruise Ship - thisisplymouth.co.uk

Royal Caribbean Passenger Dies While Kayaking in Alaska

The Juneau Empire newspaper reports today that a cruise ship passenger from Texas died after after his kayak overturned in Mendenhall Lake in Juneau, Alaska on Sunday. 

A spokeswoman for the Tongass National Forest stated that the deceased cruise passengers was 62 year old Michael Ray Fullerton.  Mr. Fullerton was with other family members, from a cruise ship, who rented kayaks to tour a lake at the foot of Mendenhall Glacier.  

A public radio station in Alaska, KTOO News, indicated that the group was from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. "They rented tandem kayaks and safety gear from Alaska Boat and Kayak in Auke Bay about 3 p.m., according to owner Sean Janes. He said the group was not on a Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas - Kayaking Death - Juneauguided trip. He said they were all given a safety briefing before they loaded their kayaks and gear in their car to drive to the lake."

The articles suggest that Mr. Fullerton allegedly became tired and the group tied their kayaks together. The kayaks overturned, although the articles are unclear how this happened. Other family members were treated for hypothermia at a hospital and released.

Last year we reported on a cruise passenger from the Disney Wonder who died while kayaking in Alaska. 

 

Photo: Royal Caribbean Cruises website

Newsweek Magazine Weighs in on Cruise Safety Debate: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising"

Today, Newsweek magazine and its online edition - The Daily Beast - weighs in on the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster with a far reaching article looking at all aspects of today's cruise industry.

Cheap cruise fares? Certainly.  But at what cost? Long working hours, low pay, and exploitative working conditions. An injured india crew members says to Newsweek: “They never feel that we are humans . . . They believe we are machines.” But Costa counters: employees are a “precious resource whose rights must be safeguarded as an ethical and moral imperative.” 

Newsweek takes a look at a number of other cruise health and safety issues, like norovirus and sick crew members pressed into working while ill and who lie to passengers to keep the machine running.

I'm quoted a couple of times about the cruise industry's new safety policies (what a joke).

The article's title is not subtle: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising," written by Eve Conant and Barbie Latza Nadeau.

Your travel friendly publications won't be re-printing the article anytime soon.

If you can't wait until the magazine arrives at your newsstand, you can read it online at the Daily Beast

Costa Concrodia - Cheal Fares & Hiden Dangers

"The industry hopes you won’t worry about such disasters next time you’re lured by an Internet ad for a $299 cruise."

Photo credit: Max Rossi / Reuters-Landov

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. 

New Clues Emerge in Case of "Missing Honeymooner" George Smith?

In the video below, MSNBC interviews the editor of the Greenwich Magazine which published an article this weekend about the death of George Smith.  We mentioned the new article, written by Timothy Dumas, last week in our blog: "New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith."

You will recall that Mr. Smith disappeared off of the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in July 2005. Although the cruise line tried to shrug the event off as a drunken accident, suspicions pointed to four men last seen in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005.

The "new" clues include a video of the men on the cruise ship.  The men recorded themselves at some point on the cruise ship after George Smith's disappearance and may have said something incriminating.

There is also mention that the criminal investigation may be transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI where some of the men live.

The video below shows  a number of old photographs associated with the case including a press conference I held in Miami in January 2006 (second photo, below right).   Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

Update George Smith Cruise Ship Disappearance Here is the transcript of the interview:

New details have surfaced in the disappearance of George Smith who vanished from his honeymoon cruise in 2005. Greenwich magazine's Cristin Marandino discusses the case with MSNBC's Thomas Roberts.

"There is some new information about to talk about in the case of a Connecticut man lost at sea on his honeymoon. it happened seven years ago. you'll probably remember that George Smith went overboard while on his honeymoon in 2005. The FBI investigation into his death is still open.

Greenwich Magazine has exclusive details about new evidence that may lead to an arrest.  Explain to all of us -- you said yourself this is a story with a lot of twists and turns.  What's the new evidence that may lead to an arrest?

Well, good morning.  There is a bunch of new evidence going on here.  One of the probably biggest and most exciting pieces that really is going to hopefully help push this case forward is the existence of a videotape that is in the possession of the FBI. On that videotape there are certain individuals that make very self incriminating statements following the death of George Smith.

Cristin, when you talk about videotape, this is not surveillance video from the actual ship. This is something shot after the event itself?

No, that is correct.  This is a videotape that the gentlemen made of themselves. And in their room, sort of passing around a flip phone.

So lots of people remember this. This was a beautiful young couple on their honeymoon. This was such a horrific incident. there was, you know, correlations, though, or kind of scandalous questions brought up about what this couple was doing that night, how much both parties had been drinking, and things trying to make them look somehow as if he deserved this in some way, shape, or form.  The family has disputed that.  The wife has moved on. even gotten a settlement.  How is the family responding to this new information that you're working on?

The family is obviously thrilled about this new information, and they have been working very carefully with a Greenwich based attorney, Mike Jones, who in large part has been responsible for helping to push this forward and making sure that this evidence does get into the right hands, which now it has. and, yeah, there's been a lot of misconceptions, a lot of in inconsistency with this case.  And i think Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise Ship Crimethat's what we tried to do and why we tried to get in the game at this point, put all of that stuff to rest, and really start talking about what did happen and helping to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And, you know, exonerate the people that should be exonerated and put a little bit of a light on people who maybe should be looked at more closely.

When you talk about the family, explain the relationship between George Smith 's parents and his wife.

At this point, I think everybody's sort of moved on. I think it's, you know, as you said, Jennifer has moved on.  She is also living in Connecticut. I don't -- you know, i think they are just living their own lives.

if you were to guess, hazard a guess as to when we may hear of an arrest or arrests are made, what timetable would you suggest?

I really at this point don't know.  And the people that i have spoken with, the hope is that because of this tape, and because of the fact that they are trying to get the case transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI, which is a good sign on a lot of levels.  One, it shows that two of the targets that they are looking at do indeed live in New York. So it shows they are trying to push it forward in that way.  And that this tape is out there, and the information is out there that this tape exists. so hopefully, you know, i would say hopefully soon.

It's certainly a case that gripped the attention of the American people. And i can imagine for the Smith family, it will be nice if they can find some forward motion and see justice in all of this. But we'll continue to watch. Cristin, thank you for your coverage this morning." 

Watch the video below. If you don't subscribe to Greenwich Magazine, read the first part of the article "Mystery at Sea" here.

  

 

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

Carnival Changes Course, Offers Cruise Credit After Customer Stabbed in the Head

Carnival Cruise Line - Cruise Credit - InsuranceA family in Kentucky is going to enjoy a family vacation after Carnival reconsidered its cancellation penalty following a vicious attack on young Troy Walter.  The teenage was coming to the defense of his friend who was attacked by a knife yielding man now in jail on attempted murder charges.

The family was scheduled to take a Caribbean cruise vacation but Troy was stabbed in the head and neck two weeks earlier.  Troy's mother called Carnival and informed customer service representatives of the attack which resulted in her son's hospitalization for two months.  She says that the Carnival customer representative promised her over the telephone that her family would receive a cruise credit of $2,000 so that they could take a cruise later.  

But when she later contacted Carnival to re-book the cruise, Carnival informed her that it had no record that anyone at Carnival promised a future cruise credit.  This was significant because the family had not purchased insurance and would forfeit the entire cruise fare.  Carnival would not reconsider its cancellation penalty which Carnival explained was a "standard industry practice."  

The Walter family contacted a local television station and spoke to the "troubleshooter" department who contacted Carnival and, eventually obtained a cruise credit good for the next year.

The local newspaper ran the story (see video below) which sparked a debate about whether the family should have been penalized for not buying insurance.  We recommend to everyone to always buy insurance because you never know what will happen right before or during a cruise.    

Cruise lines have received a lot of bad press recently.  Read this article about another cruise line, NCL, which would not alter its cancellation after one of its customer's brother died right before the cruise. The customer had to attend his brother's funeral and asked NCL to refund the cruise fare or provide a credit.  NCL refused. The customer asked NCL at least to let the aggrieved passenger donate his cruise vacation to a sick child as part of the Make-A-Wish charity. NCL would not budge.  Then came the sick part.  NCL sold the cabin to another customer.

Yes, NCL received a double profit due to a death in the customer's family.  Talk about bad karma. I wrote an article And You Wonder Why the Cruise Industry Has an Image Problem.    

Unlike NCL, in this case Carnival did the right thing.  Yes passengers should always buy insurance, but its nice to see cruise lines act human once in a while.  

 

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.

Celebrity Cruises Passenger Missing Off Coast Of Mexico

Christina Cassin - Celebrity Equinox - MissingThe Atlanta Constitution Journal reports that a 49 year old woman from Georgia disappeared last week while diving on a reef near Cozumel

The newspaper states that Christina Cassin, age 49, and her husband, Scott Turco, were passengers on the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship, which docked in Cozumel on March 28th.  The couple were diving with a group on a reef about a kilometer from the coast when she disappeared.

"They were about 10 minutes into the dive when Cassin decided to return to the surface. She said Turco turned to tell the dive master, who was right next to them, that she was going back to the surface, and when he turned back around, Cassin was gone."

The newspaper suggests that Ms. Cassin may have been caught in a strong downward current along the reef wall. 

Ms. Cassin worked as a nurse and lived with her husband in Acworth, Georgia, which is northeast of Atlanta.

 

Photo credit:  Atlanta Constitution Journal 

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

Busted for Buggery: Controversy Follows Another Atlantis Gay Cruise

Another Atlantis gay cruise resulted in public controversy yesterday when police in Dominica arrested two passengers on the Celebrity Summit on suspicion of indecent exposure and “buggery” (sodomy).

Someone on the dock supposedly observed the passengers having sex on the cruise ship. The two arrested passengers were men in their 40's from California. Newspaper accounts suggest that if convicted, each one could be fined and face jail time up to 6 months.

The Celebrity cruise ship has been chartered by Atlantis Events, which specializes in gay travel.

Atlantis Events - Gay Cruise - Celebrity SilhouetteFive Atlantis cruise with Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises have been plagued by arrests or deaths.

Last month, a young man went overboard from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship off of the coast of Mexico during an Atlantis cruise.

One year ago, a passenger, Steven Barry Krumholz, was busted for selling a large amount of drugs during a gay cruise on the Allure of the Seas.  

Two years ago, a young man died during a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas while it was in the Caymans.

Three years ago, a GLAAD board member died of an apparent drug overdose on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

This latest incident takes the controversial history of the Royal Caribbean - Atlantis relationship into the realm of the absurd.  With as many sexual assaults of women which occur on Royal Caribbean / Celebrity ships with no arrests or prosecutions during straight cruises, it is bizarre to think of passengers being arrested for engaging in consensual sex like this.  

 

Photo credit:  Alamy via Mail OnLine

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Fires: An Open Letter to Cruise Critic's Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Richard LiffridgeCarolyn:

I read your recent article in the Conde' Nast Traveler entitled "Ironically, the Costa Allegra Fire Gives Me More Confidence in the Cruise Line." 

You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."

Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess.  The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins.  As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"  

Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads.  It was "like being in an oven," she said.  The couple became separated.  'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said.  Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.

After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.

Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.  

Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising.  But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.

Educate yourself.  Take a moment and read the MAIB report on the fire that killed Mr. Liffridge.  Read our tribute to Mr. Liffridge and take a moment and look at some of the photographs of Mr. Liffridge and his family. Read our article: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires: Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."  

Tell your readers the truth.  

Jim Walker

 

March 6, 2012 Update:  Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement: 

"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned.  That was incorrect.  One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."

Today, Ms. Spensor-Brown was back to shilling for the cruise lines after a story was published about a NCL cruise line assistant cruise director who was arrested for child pornography and sexually abusing a 16 year old girl.  She decided to blame the parents:

"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . .  You're still responsible for your child."

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)

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

FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

A year and a half ago, I wrote about the danger of serious injury and death created by the "FlowRider" attraction on Royal Caribbean's cruise ship.  The article is entitled Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents.

In the article, I discussed that the cruise line forces the passengers to sign "Onboard Activities Waivers" before they can participate in certain activities on board the cruise ships.  Royal Caribbean claims that these "waivers" protect it from lawsuits whenever a cruise passenger is injured on a FlowRider, as well as during zip lining, rock climbing, or ice skating activities on the cruise ship.  We disagree.  In our article stated, we stated in no uncertain terms that:

".  .  .  these waivers are invalid.  They violate U.S. Federal law which prohibits shipping companies FowRider - Cruise Ship - Royal Caribbeanand cruise lines avoiding or limiting liability for injuries and deaths on the high seas . . .  if you are seriously injured, check with a maritime lawyer before you take the cruise line's word that their so-called 'waivers' are valid."

Yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with us.  In a case involving a client represented by our firm and our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson, the Eleventh Circuit struck down the Royal Caribbean "Onboard Activities Waiver," pursuant to a  federal statute, 46 U.S.C. § 30509. 

The Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

"Johnson was a passenger on the Oasis of the Sea cruise ship owned by Royal.  One of the attractions of this ship was the FlowRider - a simulated surfing and body boarding activity.  Before purchasing a ticket to participate in the FlowRider attraction, Johnson was instructed to sign her name to an electronic "Onboard Activity Waiver" ("the waiver").  When she signed her name to the waiver, Johnson agreed to release Royal and its employees from actions "arising from any accident [or] injury. . . resulting from . . . [her] participation in any or all of the shipboard activities [she] has selected." 

While receiving instruction for the body boarding portion of FlowRider, Johnson received instructions from an instructor employed by Royal ("Mike") that deviated from the regular use of the body boards, which are different from the surfboards.  Mike instructed Johnson to stand on the body board while he was holding it.  When he released the board, Johnson fell off the board and suffered a fractured ankle.  The maneuver attempted by Mike with Johnson was in violation of Royal's safety guidelines for the FlowRider attraction. These guidelines specifically state that the boards for the surfing portion can be stood upon, while the boards used for the body boarding portion should only be used while lying down."

After we filed suit against Royal Caribbean, the cruise line argued that the waiver precluded our client from recovering for her injuries.  The trial court agreed and ended our case a few days before trial.  We appealed.

In an opinion released yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the lower court.  The appellate court ruled that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner's employees or agents."   The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities.  Although waivers of this type may be enforceable on land, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.

The ruling is significant because there has been at least one death and numerous serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.

The interesting thing about this appeal is that in addition to the efforts of Royal Caribbean, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), filed an amicus curiae brief, trying to convince the appellate court to strip the rights of passengers who are injured during cruises.  If successful with this case, Royal Caribbean and the other 25 CLIA cruise lines undoubtedly would have required cruise passengers to sign waivers for all shipboard activities.  I doubt that any travel agents who are members of CLIA know what the cruise lines were up to.

The appeal was handled by appellate specialist Phil Parrish.    

You can read the entire opinion here.  And don't forget to watch "Royal Caribbean WipeOuts!" video below:

 

 

Video             YouTube lilmikee420

Photo:       Cruise Critic

Cruise Passenger Found Dead in Cayman Islands

Cruise Passenger Drowns - Cayman IslandsToday the Cayman News Service reports that yesterday afternoon a seventy one year old cruise passenger was found dead in the water near an area referred to as the "Sand Bar."  This is a popular location where tourists can swim in shallow water near stingrays.

Police have identified the cruise ship passenger as Mr. Samir Rizk of Raleigh, North Carolina.

According to this news source, a spokesperson for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said that just before 2:00 PM on December 6th, the local police police received a report that "a man had been found in the ocean, near to Coral Gardens, floating in the water by people who were on a boat at the Sand Bar."  

The boaters lifted the man onto their vessel, but found he was unconscious and non-responsive to CPR.  

The news source further reports that the Joint Marine Unit’s ‘Niven D’ went to the location and transported the man to the Yacht Club where paramedics were standing-by.  He was then taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, but was found to be dead on arrival.

A post mortem examination is scheduled to take place on this Friday, December 9th.  There is no indication regarding the name of the cruise line or cruise ship on which the deceased passenger was sailing.  It is also unknown whether the passenger was on an excursion, or a tender, or swimming or engaged in water sports.

If you were on the cruise and have information regarding this incident, please leave a comment below.   

December 8, 2011 Update: The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper has an article where Mr. Rizk's brother described him as an excellent swimmer and marathon runner, having completed a marathon just two months earlier.  He questions how no one observed his brother in distress in such a popular and often crowded area.

 

Photo credit:  photos4travel / @patrix99

Woman Dies After Fall From Queen Mary

A news station in California is reporting that a woman is dead after falling around 75 feet from the Queen Mary in Long Beach Harbor Monday evening.

KABC News in Long Beach states that the woman "fell off a walkway" around 8:30 p.m. yesterday evening and plunged into the water below.

Another person jumped into the water to try and rescue the woman, followed by two Long Beach police officers. 

The BelmontShores-Naples Patch has the most complete information.  This newspaper states that the 26 year old woman fell from the upper gangway after arguing with her 40 year old boyfriend.

Queen Mary Hotel - Long BeachThe newspaper reports that that two unidentified employees witnessed the argument and the woman falling into the water.  Although ordered not to talk, they provided eyewitness detail.

They said that the woman had been arguing, with a man they called her boyfriend, near the center of the top level gangway for nearly 10 minutes.  One employee recounted that the woman allegedly said "I don't want to live, I don't want to be with you anymore, I don't want to go on."

She made a "motion like she was going to go over the rail and slipped."

The 40 year old man then "ran down the steps to the bottom landing and jumped in."

The newspaper states that one of the employees saw the entire (nearly 10 minute) argument, while the second employee said he saw the final three or four minutes.

She was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died.

Although many news sources refer to the Queen Mary as a "cruise ship," in 1967 it was removed from the British registry and officially turned over to the city of Long Beach.  The once storied vessel was operated by Cunard.  The vessel had its inaugural voyage in 1936; it was used as a troop transport in the second world war; and it enjoyed its "golden years" in the 1950's and 1960's.  It is now operated as a hotel and is fully dependent on shore utilities.  

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.

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

 

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.

Atlantis Jet-Ski Accident in Nassau: Was A Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed?

A number of readers of our blog have contacted us asking for information about a jet ski mishap where a cruise passenger apparently died in the Bahamas on November 24th.

The incident reportedly occurred after the cruise passenger rented a jet ski at the Atlantis resort in Nassau.  The passenger had sailed to Nassau aboard the Carnival Magic cruise ship.

There are no news accounts regarding the incident which we have been able to find.  

One reader wrote to us saying: 

" . . . I think it would be good to have more openness so that people can make better informed decisions about activities when they go on vacation. I think it's atrocious that it is obviously being covered up. I also checked all avenues before I wrote you a note. It is real but I don't know how to get the information out."

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."

There are lots of articles on line about jet ski accidents in the Bahamas, including this article dating back to 2004. 

If you were on the Magic and have information about this incident, please leave a comment below.

November 30, 2011 Update:

A reader left a comment below and alerted us that there is a video from the Bahamas about the incident.  The victim was apparenty 47 years old and from Texas. 

 

 

Video credit:  Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas

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 

Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas

A news source in the U.S. Virgin Islands reports that two passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship were involved in a serious parasailing accident on Tuesday in St. Thomas.

The incident occurred late Tuesday afternoon while the passengers were on an excursion.  One of the passengers died, and the other was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

There are comments from an online cruise community suggesting that the deceased passengers was celebrating  her 60th birthday and her daughter was the one seriously injured.     

Celebrity Cruises Parasailing Accident - St. ThomasCelebrity Cruises advertises parasailing "400 feet over St. Thomas" on its website.  You can watch's Celebrity's brief  video about parasailing in St. Thomas here which describes the excursion as an "experience of a lifetime." 

A number of agencies are apparently involved in the investigation into this incident, including the Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Last year we reported on the death of a Carnival cruise passenger parasailing in Cozumel during an excursion. 

 if you know how the accident occurred, please leave a comment below.

November 17, 2011 Update:

Caribbean Water Sports and Tours - Parasailing DeathThe Virgin Islands Daily News published an article this evening stating that "squalls and wind gusts Tuesday afternoon may have factored into the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, 60, and the serious injury of her daughter Danielle Haese, 34, who was hospitalized overnight at Schneider Hospital." 

The mother and daughter purchased a parasailing shore-excursion from Celebrity Cruises which was conducted by Caribbean Watersports and Tours.  The excursion company conducted the parasailing trip aboard the 31-foot powerboat Turtle.  The newspaper reports that two crew members operated the Turtle, which was carrying five passengers. 

"All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation," said Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Cruise lines face legal liability when they fail to vet the safety policies and procedures of the excursion companies which the cruise lines select to do business with. 

For example, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

December 3, 2011 Update:

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

 

Photo credit:  Celebrity Cruises

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.

Your Time is Limited, Find What You Love - Rest in Peace Steve Jobs

Tonight I watched the news programs about the death of Steve Jobs, the college drop-out turned garage computer creator turned genius behind the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad products and Pixar studio. 

Jobs had a almost Zen like approach to his iconic products and his life, as revealed during his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

At this time, he had already co-founded Apple and been fired by age 30, re-emerged for the renaissance of Apple's best days, and batted pancreatic cancer.  

At age 56, he tells the young graduating students some sage advise.  Find what you love in your life and in your career, and "love what you do." 

"Your time is limited."

"Don't waste it by living someone else's life."

For those reading this blog, take a minute and reflect on where you are right now.  Do you love your life and your job?   Are you really living your life?  

Or are you wasting your limited time here on planet Earth by listening to the noise created by others?  

 

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)  

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.

 

Rush to Judgment: Did Pressure from Royal Caribbean Cause Mexican Police to Arrest an Innocent Man?

Earlier this week, we reported that the case against the Mexican man charged with killing Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, was falling apart.  A key prosecution witness testified at a hearing that police pressured him into making a false statement implicating Nelson Pérez Torres as the murderer.

Nelson Pérez TorresIn our article Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent? we pointed out that the Mexican police have now been accused of strong arm tactics against both the alleged killer and the star prosecution witness.

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that after Ms. Markiewicz's death, an official from Royal Caribbean traveled to Mexico and placed pressure on Mexico officials to quickly solve the crime.

SIPSE.com states that case gained special importance because it involved a crew member from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean.  The newspaper reports that Michael Ronan, vice president of Royal Caribbean, traveled to Cozumel and met with tourism authorities and the police to discuss the details of the case.

"The pressure increased when he made statements that cruises to the island could be suspended if the case was not resolved."  (translation)

This crime occurred at a time when some cruises lines were suspending cruises to Mexico due to the perception that it is unsafe to disembark in Mexican ports due to violent crime. 

Mexican police arrested Mr. Torres within a week of the death of Ms. Markiewicz.  Newspapers in Mexico published stories that Mr. Torres was railroaded into a confession.  His friends and family members even picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent. 

On the same day as the arrest, Royal Caribbean issued a press release stating that its "Global Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Security Department fully supported and assisted Mexican officials in their investigation of this isolated and uncharacteristic crime for Cozumel."

Cruise line President Adam Goldstein was quoted saying:  

"We thank the Mexican authorities for their commitment to quickly solving the murder of our crew member . . ."

"Quick" justice is often no justice at all. 

It will be unjust to both the Torres and Markiewicz families if the wrong man is convicted.  
 

 

Photo credit:

Top: SIPSE.com 

Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent?

Nelson Pérez TorresThe press in Mexico is raising questions about the criminal charges leveled against Nelson Pérez Torres, who is jailed and awaiting trial for the murder of Royal Caribbean crewmember, Monika Markiewicz.

Ms. Markiewizc was an accomplished musician employed as a violinist aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.  In February, she disembarked in Cozumel from the Allure and did not return to the cruise ship which left and sailed back to Miami.  Her body was located the following day. 

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.

Mexican police arrested 24 year old Nelson Perez Torres, who worked at a restaurant / bar near the port.  He reportedly confessed to striking Ms. 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.  You can read our articles about this case below: 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Monika's Last Recital

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that the case against Torres is "riddled with contradictions and irregularities."  SIPSE.com  reports that the "star witness" for the prosecution has not only retracted his statement but alleges that he was theatened by the police to sign the declaration.  The Torres family has always contended that their son was beaten and "confessed" to the crime under duress.  We previously blogged about this: Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

The Mexican newspaper also states that videos taken at an intersection near the crime scene, and which should depict the identity of the murderer walking with Ms. Markiewicz, have not been produced.  The article also alludes that there will be defense witnesses who will testify to Mr. Torres being at a different location at the time of the murder. 

 

Photo credit:  estosdias.com.mx

Video credit: VOZTVCOZQROO (YouTube)

Royal Caribbean Demonstrated "Gross Indifference" to Passengers' Lives

NBC Los Angeles reports today that Royal Caribbean Cruises demonstrated "a gross indifference to the life and health" of passengers by continuing to cruise with a ship that "that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers," according to Miami Dade County Judge Marc Schumacher.

The ruling today involved a leak of hydrogen sulfide that killed three Royal Caribbean crew members and injured 19 others in September 2005.

Bjoern EidissenOver the 2005 Labor Day weekend, the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas cruise ship had just returned to San Pedro, California after a cruise to Mexico.

More than three thousand, four hundred people were on board the cruise ship.  

Crewmembers were attempting to replace a leaking section of pipe connected to the ship's food waste system.  The pipe burst and hydrogen sulfide gas escaped into the engine room.  The poisonous gas killed three crewmembers.  Nineteen other crewmembers were rushed to the hospital. 

Passengers on the cruise ships complained at the beginning of the cruise that they smelled the noxious gas the first night of the cruise, raising the issue whether the cruise should have been canceled.

Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen was injured when he responded to the crisis. 

He alleges that Royal Caribbean provided inadequate and delayed medical treatment and then terminated his employment. 

According to the news report, when county health investigators measured the levels of hydrogen sulfide gas in the engine room five hours after the incident the levels were at 100 parts per million -well above OSHA’s limit of 20 ppm. 

Photos taken during a Coast Guard investigation of the incident document the "extensive corrosion" they say they found in engine room pipes where the leak originated.  The Coast Guard report concludes: "early signs… of hazardous H2S gas …were missed."

Staff Captain Eidissen reportedly observed the holes in the engine room pipes.  Despite patches that were applied over the holes, he felt the ship was unsafe and warned his superiors.  "It was totally crazy," Eidiseen said in an interview from his home in Norway. "We should never have sailed . . . the cruise line knew about it and they ignored the danger."

Judge Schumacher's order states: "Royal Caribbean’s actions demonstrated a gross indifference to the life and health of not only the plaintiff but other passengers onboard the Monarch of the Seas when it continued to cruise with measures that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers."

In addition to compensatory damages, the Court held that Eidissen could seek punitive damages for the cruise lines' egregious conduct.

A copy of the order can be viewed here.  The order indicates that there was a prior gas leak on the Monarch in March 2005, which the cruise line was aware of yet it failed to take reasonable steps to fix the problem and protect the crew and passengers.

 

 

The case is handled by our friend, Miami lawyer Jack Hickey.  He issued a press release last year, stating in part that when the cruise ship was drifting, at anchor, or at dock, the noxious gas was sucked back into the vessel and into the passenger areas including cabins, through the air conditioning intakes. This reportedly allowed the methane and hydrogen sulfide gas to leak into habitable areas on the ship including the areas in which Mr. Eidissen worked. The Monarch of the Seas received numerous passenger complaints about a foul smelling gas, in addition to several complaints from a stevedore company, dockside businesses, and the workers who eventually fixed the pipe while the ship was in dry dock.

Although the cruise line initially denied liability, it subsequently filed a stipulation that it is legally responsible for releasing the gas.

Royal Caribbean is being defended by Curtis Mase

We have found over the last 10 years, Royal Caribbean has consistently exhibited the worst corporate malfeasance of any of the Miami based cruise lines.  Last year, we reported on an incident when 6 crew members were taken to the hospital in Baltimore for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a welding operation in the engine room as the Celebrity / Royal Caribbean cruise ship was returning to port.  Read: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Bjørn Eidissen (via facebook)

Bottom:  NBC Los Angeles

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.

Brazilian Police Conclude MSC Crewmember Strangled to Death

In January last year, we reported on the death of Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, age 28, aboard the MSC Musica cruise ship.  Her boyfriend, Bruno Souza Bicalho, allegedly found Ms. Bandeira deceased in their cabin, claiming that she committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet from an overhead pipe.

Camila Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Cruises Today, a newspaper in Brazil reports that the police concluded that Ms. Bandeira was murdered by her boyfriend, with the cause of death being strangulation with the hands.  The conclusions were based on medical and forensic analysis and investigations conducted by the Brazilian police officers aboard the ship.

Camilla's cause has been championed by her brother, José Godolphim Bandeira Netto, who publishes a blog about the family's ordeal. 

This case is now heading toward a prosecution of Mr. Bicalho for the murder of Ms. Bandeira.

We applaud Jose and Ms. Bandeira's family for their efforts in finding justice for Camilla.

 

Photo credit:  atribuna.com.br

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 

Monika's Last Recital

A reader of our blog, Evelyn, left us a link to a  short video of Monika Markiewicz playing the violin aboard the Allure of the Seas cruise ship shortly before her death in Cozumel.  The reader left the short message: "I shot a short video on her playing . . . she was so sweet."'

The death of a young person like Monika leaves a void in the universe that can never be filled. 

We hope that the family and friends of Ms. Markiewicz consider the happiness that she brought to hundreds of her crew member friends and thousands of passengers who enjoyed her play beautiful and joyful music.      

May she rest in peace.   

 

 

Video credit:   luktungkuen YouTube

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.

Mexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

Thirteen years ago I represented a young woman from St. Augustine, Florida.  She was employed as a cook on a private yacht owned by a multi-millionaire tycoon.  She went ashore to Cabo San Lucas with a group of fellow crew members.  They ended up leaving her in a nightclub and returned to the yacht.  When she tried to walk back to the marina late that evening, four Mexican men abducted her in their car.  They  drove her outside of the city to a remote area.  They then raped her and burnt her naked body with cigarettes.  When the men passed out after drinking tequila and smoking weed, she ran to a highway, flagged down a car, and escaped from her hell in the Mexican desert. 

Her maritime employer, asshole as he was, not only refused to provide her with medical treatment but fired her from her job.  He blamed her for staying out late and drinking at the club.  The kindest thing I can say about the local police in Mexico is that they were indifferent to the young woman's plight.  

When I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, I found the surroundings hostile.  The area surrounding the marina and cruise port seemed menacing.  I have lived outside of the U.S., including in North Africa, but Mexico seemed utterly lawless to me.  The police authorities seemed no different than the banditos.    

My client's situation ended up in litigation based on the yacht owner's failure to warn her of the dangers ashore in Mexico and his refusal to provide her with medical treatment after she was victimized.  After a long protracted battle, she obtained a settlement and tried to move on with her life. 

Her ordeal has always haunted me. 

Cozumel Mexico - Crime - Cruise Ships Ever since then, I have been hyper-sensitive to the vulnerability of women employed on ships sailing around the world. I am apprehensive of the dangers which  await young women as they unsuspectingly walk down the gangplanks into the tropical ports of call which seem so appealing but - in truth - are so, so dangerous.

The recent story about the Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, from the Allure of the Seas, who disembarked her cruise ship in Cozumel and never returned, brings me back to my client's tortuous ordeal over a decade ago.

There is no indication that Ms. Markiewicz was sexually assaulted, but her employer has publicly stated that she was a "victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel."  Did the cruise line warn her and other crew members of dangers ashore in Mexico?   What did the cruise line do once they realized that she did not return to the cruise ship last Friday afternoon?  Did they abandon her as my client was abandoned 13 years ago?  Did they notify the young woman's family in Poland when the cruise ship set sail and left her in Mexico?  Did they contact the Polish Embassy or Consulate?  While heading back to Miami, did the cruise line call the emergency contact telephone numbers which all crew members provide when they join Royal Caribbean?

Is Royal Caribbean going to do anything now?  Its PR spokesperson stated yesterday that the cruise line has no intention of suspending its trips to Cozumel.  Full steam ahead, they say.  When the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti and killed 100,000 people a year ago, Royal Caribbean said that sailing back into the Haitian destination of Labadee was a "no brainer."  So the loss of one of its crew members due to a violent crime in Cozumel is not going to slow it down one bit.  

Royal Caribbean is directing all inquiries regarding the crime to the Mexican police authorities.  But the police have a reputation for incompetence at best and corruption at worst.  I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee on shore leave.  There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness.  And some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Many naysayers reading this blog will say "it could happen anywhere."  Others will say "what is a cruise line to do?"  Well we know what Royal Caribbean is doing - sailing to Mexico as if nothing happened.  And pretending the Mexican police will solve a crime against a young woman from Poland victimized in a remote location in a dangerous country. 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure's sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger's husband filed suit over his wife's death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  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. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship's surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz's death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

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.

More Cruise Line PR Games: Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

This weekend we reported on a lawsuit which had been filed against Royal Caribbean over the death of a 56 year old passenger, Barbara Davey (photo below left).  The deceased passenger's husband, John Davey, stated to the Scottish and U.K. media that "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt" during the violent storm which rocked the Brilliance of the Seas as the cruise ship approached Alexandria Egypt.  Three days later Ms. Davey lapsed into a coma and subsequently died.  Doctors apparently diagnosed a "brain ­hemorrhage" as the cause of death.

Barbara Davey - John Davey - Brilliance of the Seas - DeathThis morning USA Today's CruiseLog picked up on the story in an article "Passenger on Storm-Tossed Cruise Says Event Led to Wife's Death."

Royal Caribbean responded to the USA Today article with a rather remarkable spin:

"Royal Caribbean is disputing the notion that the stormy weather encountered by Brilliance of the Seas had a role in Davey's death, telling USA TODAY that her illness was the result of a pre-existing medical condition.  Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Michelle Nadeem says the ship's doctor was called to Davey's cabin on the second day the vessel was in Malta, three days after the ship hit rough seas, and the doctor quickly determined she had an acute medical emergency and called an ambulance.

'She was taken to the hospital where she remained in critical condition,' Nadeem says, adding that Davey never lost consciousness while on the ship. "The Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department has determined that Mrs. Davey's acute medical emergency was caused by a preexisting medical condition unrelated to the listing of the ship.' "

I have seen some pretty nasty cruise line PR statements over the years, but this one takes the cake. 

Medical information divulged by a patient to a doctor is strictly confidential in most civilized countries.  In the U.S., patients have privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Michelle Nadeem Cruise Line PR - Royal CaribbeanAccountability Act ("HIPAA") which prohibits medical providers (including cruise doctors) from releasing any information about patients to anyone (including newspaper reporters to say the least!) unless there has been HIPAA-compliant medical releases executed.

But this is the anything-goes world of cruising where privacy rights be damned.  And this is Royal Caribbean which has the worst cruise reputation in the world.  Only the "Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Medical Department" could justify disclosing to the world that Ms. Davey not only had a "pre-existing" medical condition but definitively state that the alleged "pre-existing" condition killed her.

The USA Today article quotes Royal Caribbean spokesperson Michelle Nadeem (photo above right) as the source of the leaked medical information.  The cruise line's PR release when it hired Ms. Nadeem indicates that she is experienced in crisis management, reputation management, social responsibility, and healthcare issues.  She reports directly to the cruise line's CEO,  Richard Fain.   

Now that the death of Ms. Davey has reached the national media, Royal Caribbean wants to set the record straight  -  it's Ms. Davey's fault that she is dead, not the violent rocking of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship which threw her around her cabin like a rag doll.   And the cruise line was prepared to reveal the confidential medical history of a dead woman to prove its point. 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Ms. Nadeem again released Ms. Davey's medical history and information from her medical records to the popular on line cruise community, Cruise Critic.    

 

For additional information about Royal Caribbean's unique style of manging its reputation, consider reading: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image

Photo credits:

Top      The Courier UK

Bottom        Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Accident on Oasis of the Seas Seriously Injures Crew Member

Cruise Law News has been contacted by two passengers this weekend, inquiring about a serious accident which occurred on the Oasis of the Seas.  The passengers are describing the incident as occurring during a crew fire drill while the cruise ship was at the port in Cozumel last Thursday, January 27th.  A crew member was badly injured and taken from the cruise ship by a medical team.

The captain of the Oasis made a number of announcements indicating that the crew member was in critical condition and underwent surgery.

 If you were you on the cruise and have pertinent information, please feel free to leave a message below.

January 29, 2011:  We received information that the accident occurred "during the mandatory drill an oxygen tank cracked and hit a crew member on the head.  Safety officer broke his leg."    

January 30, 2011 Update: a passenger comments below that a defective oxygen tank used during the fire drills 'took off like a rocket' and hit the crew member in the head and he was taken to Miami for emergency medical treatment.  

January 31, 2011 Update:  a cruise insider informs us that the Royal Caribbean crew member died on January 29, 2011.

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

Holland America Crew Member Killed In Life Boat Mishap

A 29 year old crew member died during a botched life boat training exercise in New Zealand today. 

According to newspapers in New Zealand, the accident occurred when crew members from Holland America Line's Volendam cruise ship were practicing life boats drills.  One of the wires attaching the lifeboat to the cruise ship snapped, throwing the two HAL crew members into the water in Lyttelton Harbor.  One of the crew members was rescued, but the other man who was wearing heavy clothing and boots went under water and did not reappear.  The crew members were reportedly not wearing a life jacket.

HAL has not released the name of the deceased crew member. 

January 9, 2011 Update:

We received a comment (below) from the Medical Officer on the HAL cruise ship, expressing his/her condolences.  We appreciate hearing from cruise line like this.  It shows compassion.  This is the first time in 500 blog articles that a cruise line has posted a comment on our blog following a crew member death or injury. 

A newspaper in New Zealand has a follow up article on the crew member death - "Liner Crew Traumatized by Shipmate's Drowning" - indicating that the cruise ship's 600 crew members were "obviously traumatised by the whole thing . . .  they all know each other pretty well, so they are quite upset."

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)

A Mysterious Passenger Death, Another Royal Caribbean Crew Death, Country Music in Mexico, and a Cruise Ship Named After an Ogress

The month of November ends with the mystery of a dead Carnival passenger, another dead Royal Caribbean crew member, a drunk HAL passenger, and the usual weird cruise news. 

Murder Cover Up on the Carnival Liberty?  According to Carnival's PR spokesperson Vance Gulliksen, the death of a passenger on the Carnival Liberty had nothing to so with a crime or FBI - Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Passenger Deathviolence, it was just "medical related."  But passengers who were aboard the cruise ship commented on our blog articles Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship and Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty? that the 36 years old female passenger met a violent if not gruesome death.  We posted a video (left) from one of the passengers showing the FBI leaving the cruise ship with what appears to be bags of evidence.  Is Carnival trying to hide the truth?  It would not be the first time.  We have made a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and will stay on top of the story.   

Why Did a 33 Year Old RCCL Cook from Jamaica Die on the Oasis of the Seas?  Following the death of a young Jamaican cook on the mega ship Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean took a different PR approach than Carnival and simply said that it is standard protocol to call the FBI following a crew member death.  Actually, there is no protocol to notify the FBI every time a crew employee or passenger dies during a cruise.  The FBI suggests that they be notified when there are suspicious circumstances surrounding a shipboard death.  Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival do a notoriously terrible job handling crime cases and are about the least transparent corporations in revealing information when things go wrong at seas.      

How Could A Single Drunk Passenger Almost "Destroy, Disable, or Wreck" a HAL Cruise Tatlor Swift - Kanye West - Allure of the SeasShip?  An intoxicated passenger dropped an anchor early one morning while cruising on the Holland America Line Ryndam cruise ship.  The FBI arrested the drunk passenger with great fanfare.  The media followed up with the usual throw-the-stupid-drunk overboard stories.  But if there really is a criminal case to be made against the passenger for attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel” (a felony pursuant to the United States Code), then what does that say about this cruise line's security protocols?  If a stupid, drunk can single handedly wreck a cruise ship, what do you think a group of smart determined terrorists can do? 

Lesson learned?  There is way too much alcohol and far too few experienced security personnel on these foreign flagged cruise ships.    

Aqua Concert in Cozumel:  On the bright side, country artist Taylor Swift will be singing her hits to a captive audience aboard Royal Caribbean's newest monster cruise ship, Allure of the Seas.  On January 21, 2011, as the cruise ship docks in Cozumel, Mexico, Ms. Swift will perform in the cruise Princess Fiona - Royal Caribbean - Godmother - Allure of the Seas - Fain - Goldsteinship’s AquaTheater, providing an open-air / ocean view concert.  Let's hope that a brandy-sipping Kanye West (above right) doesn't show up on stage and take her microphone away, babbling that Beyoncé should be singing instead.  OK.  I'll admit it.  I prefer Beyoncé rather than the skinny country chick.  But that's not the point. 

Ogress Fiona and the Nation of Why Not?  Royal Caribbean announced that the Godmother of its monstrous Allure of the Seas cruise ship is no other than Shrek's Princess Fiona.  I'm not sure of the thought process behind naming a cruise ship after a cursed by-day princess who becomes an ogress at sunset.  But anything goes at the Nation of Why Not.  Sounds like the results of a deal with DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to market his movie creatures, and RCCL is pleased to cram the movie marketing down their passengers' throats.  Ogress Fiona, President Goldstein,CEO Fain and the Allure's Captain certainly make for a handsome PR photo.  Yikes. 

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?

Cruise Passengers: Have You Been A Victim of Crime In St. Thomas?

Our firm is investigating the tragic death of a young girl who was shot and killed while ashore in St. Thomas during a cruise.  This child was one of hundred of thousands of passengers who sail into this beautiful island each year without realizing that St. Thomas has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.  It's murder rate this year at the time of the young girl's death was 42 in a population of only 100,000.

Unfortunately, most cruise lines did not warn their passengers of the substantial dangers which exist on this island upon disembarking from the cruise ship.   

Here is our blog on this terrible situation:

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Have you been on a cruise and been a victim of a crime ashore in St. Thomas?

Are you a tourist robbed or attacked while visiting St. Thomas?

Do you know someone who was the victim of a violent crime in St. Thomas?

Please contact me - 305 995-5300 or send me an email - jwalker@cruiselaw.com

We need your help . . .  thanks!  Jim Walker 

9 Cruise Passengers Killed, 14 Injured in Bus Excursion Accident

Classic International Cruises - Funchal cruise ship - tour bus accidentA excursion bus carrying cruise passengers plunged into a ravine in northern Morocco (Castillejos) today and killed nine Portuguese tourists. 14 cruise passengers were injured. 

44 passengers were aboard the bus when it crashed during foggy and rainy weather.  Some news sources are indicating the bus driver may have been speeding. 

AFP reports that the passengers were from the Funchal cruise ship which had docked in Ceuta with 400 passengers. 

The Funchal is marketed by Classic International Cruises and operated by Arcalia Shipping Company Ltd, of Cyprus.  

There have been a number of bus accidents causing injury and death to cruise passengers. Earlier this this year, a tour bus carrying passengers from a Princess Cruises ship crashed in Tortola - Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises' Passengers From Caribbean Princess

 

Photo credit:    AFP

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.

 

Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act

Today the Senate will debate amending the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit the families of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion to recover compensation for their emotional damages for losing their husbands and fathers.  The House of Representatives previously voted to amend DOHSA.

We have discussed the inequities in this archaic law which has been denying just compensation to families for 90 years.  

Senator Rockefeller introduced the "Fairness In Admiralty and Maritime Law Act" (S 3600), which Senator LeMieux - Cruise Industry - Oil & Gas Supporterwill permit recovery of compensation for the families of oil workers, cruise cruise passengers and crew members on maritime vessels killed in international waters. 

But the cruise industry has unleashed its lobbyists to work the Senators over to try and kill the amendment and exclude the families of cruise passenger and crew members from the Rockefeller amendment.  With the urging of the cruise lines, Florida Republican Senator LeMieux (left) introduced an amendment to exclude everyone except the BP widows from compensation.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is once against trying to strip the rights of cruise passengers and crew members.  CLIA's Michael Crye (below right) has been working with the cruise industry's lobbyists. 

CLIA has assembled its usual cast of characters to try and kill the Senator Rockefeller's amendment to DOHSA, including the Alcalde & Fay lobbying firm.  The cruise lines have paid millions to the lobbyists at Alcalde & Fay.  

Cruise Line International Association - Micahel Crye - CLIACruise Law News (CLN) has learned that Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (below left) and Harold (Hal) Creed, have been been working with Senator LeMieux's staffers to grow support for the cruise industry's interests.  This means that when a cruise line's negligence kills a retired passenger or child, the surviving family is barred from receiving compensation.   

Senator LeMieux has made a deal with Alaskan Senator Begich to support LeMieux if Begich's study amendment passes.  A classic I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine.  Alaskan Senator Inouye's staff has been communicating with LeMieux's staff.

The Alcalde & Fay people have been pressuring Senator Nelson but have been unable to obtain his commitment to join forces with Senator LeMieux.  Ms. Bondi met with Senator Cantwell's Chief of Staff yesterday. 

Tabdy Bondi - Alcalde & Fay - Cruise Line Lobbyist Alcalde & Fay's consensus is that the Republicans will support LeMieux, so they are working on lobbying the Democrats.  Today they will be releasing a letter from the coalition of industries which are trying to keep the passengers and crew members from being included in DOHSA.

One of the coalition members is the American Waterways Operators (AWO), which is the trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. 

The AWO's Jennifer Campbell (Senior Vice President - National Advocacy) and Chris Coakley (Vice President - Legislative Affairs) have been lobbying on behalf of the AWO.  Ms. Campbell has been calling the Senators to try and derail the expansion of DOHSA, and Mr. Coakley has been walking the halls of Congress. 

The AWO lobbyist have been placing alot of pressure on Senator Vitter, who is in a key position Cruise LIne International Association - CLIA - BPbeing from Louisiana which is at the epicenter of the BP disaster. 

It is an amazing spectacle seeing the cruise industry using Senator LeMieux as a front man for its nefarious interests.  The cruise lines have a big industry shill in their hands.  Before he was a Senator, LeMieux lobbied heavily for offshore drilling by companies like BP off of the coast of Florida - a story which the St. Petersburg Time published BP - CLIA - Cruise Line International Associationlast year.

So we have kindred spirit companies, the cruise lines and BP and their maritime and oil & gas industry friends, teaming up to fight against the families to deprive them of their DOHSA remedies which are desperately needed to protect innocent people killed on the high seas.  

Two dirty industries are paying millions to their lobbyists to put profits over people again.     

Consider reading:

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

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

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

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

 

Senator Le Mieux - BP - Cruise Lines - CLIA - Alcalde & Fay

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Lizmarie Perez ChaparroA 14 year Carnival cruise passenger was shot and killed today after arriving in St. Thomas aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship.  Lizmarie Perez Chaparro was riding in a "safari bus" with her family when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout.

According to the AP, the young girl and her family had sailed from San Juan on Sunday. Another cruise ship passenger sustained a minor injury during the shootout. Another person, not from the cruise ship, 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, was also shot and killed. Mr. Joseph was attending a funeral for another young man murdered last month. 

Governor de Jongh issued a statement indicating that the deaths were caused by gangs waging "street justice" to settle their differences.

The tourist bus was hit by gunfire on its way to Coki Point Beach. Although this is a destination advertised by the cruise lines for snorkeling and scuba, Carnival denies that this was a Carnival excursion.

Carnival Victory - St. Thomas - Murder - Lizmarie Perez Chapparro

St. Thomas has been a hot spot for crime, including violent crimes against tourists for many years. Cruise lines face liability for subjecting their guests to harm and not warning them of the risk of such violence. 

There is a local blog by the Big Kahuna discussing the tragedy and the problem with crime on the island. The blog mentions that the astronomical murder rate is 42 this year in a population of only 100,000.  One of the readers left this comment:  "This morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Carnival Victory sail into port this morning. Unknowingly,that ship was bringing a little innocent girl here to be murdered. That’s difficult to grasp, it’s haunting . . ."

Carnival PR person Jennifer De La Cruz said Carnival suspended all excursions to the beach. The Carnival PR people crafted a statement that the incident was "unfathomable" and the Captain of the cruise ship used the word "shocked."  These are code words for "not foreseeable," meaning the cruise line is denying that it is responsible for sailing its guests into a port with high crime and street violence.   

A wanted poster of the suspect is in the St. Thomas Source.  This newspaper also has an excellent article about crime in the Caribbean: "Drugs, Gangs and Guns Fueling Caribbean-Wide Crime Surge."

A letter to the passengers signed by Captain Salvatore Messina is below.

   

Lizmarie Perez Chapparro - Carnival Cruise - St. Thomas Passenger Death - Crime

 

June 13, 2010 Update:  The El Nuevo Dia newspaper in Puerto Rico is reporting that Ms. Chaparro's family was cruising to celebrate her upcoming quinceanera and her parents' wedding anniversary.  The cruise line PR people and the tourism officials are in overdrive, announcing that the murder is "isolated" and the islands remain a "safe destination for tourists."

June 15, 2010 Update: The popular USA TODAY Cruise Log has a blog: "Shooting death of cruiser in Virgin Islands comes as killings there soar." 

June 16, 2010 Update:  Virgin Islands Daily News has an article "Cruise lines warn passengers about Coki Point shooting," discussing how many cruise lines are warning p[assengers about crime in St. Thomas and suspending excursions to the Coki beach area.  Cruise Critic has an interesting article "Who's Responsible for Warning Cruise Travelers About Dangers in Port?"

June 18, 2010 Update:  "Heartache wrenches those who knew slain girl."

Were you on the cruise?  What are your thoughts about crime in St. Thomas and in other  Caribbean ports of call? Please leave a comment below . . .

We have written a number of articles about the high crime rate in the Caribbean ports of call in prior articles:   

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers  

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas 

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

 

Credit: 

Photo    Lizmarie Perez Chaparro     Javier Rivera / END via El Nuevo Dia

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship         bajan.wordpress.com

Photo Carnival letter   alexbrown96's tweetphoto   via  St. Thomas Blog by the Big Kahuna

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

Cruise Job Search Leads to Death In Trinidad

A number of newspapers in Trinidad are reporting on the death of Michelle Samaroo of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, who disappeared on April 26th when she traveled to Arouca to obtain a job on a cruise ship.  Ms. Samaroo had responded to an advertisement in a local newspaper and had told her family that she was going to a cruise placement agency. 

Ms. Samaroo was requested to take $5,000 TT ($790 U.S.) for a visa and medical examination as part of the hiring process.  She did not return home and her family mounted an investigation.  The unidentified hiring agency allegedly informed Ms. Samaroo that she did not qualify for the job and returned her money.

Michelle Samaroo - Trinidad Ms. Samaroo's body was found on May 14th.  The  cause of death was not determined.

We represent many men and women from Trinidad, St. Vincent and other islands in the Southern Caribbean.  We have heard many stories about unscrupulous hiring agents who try and extract payments up front or "bonuses" from young men and women when they are hired to work on Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise ships.  Sometimes the "bonus" will be equivalent to several months of a crew member's salary.

The "hiring agents" in the Caribbean are unregulated, even though they conduct the pre-employment screening and coordinate the medical evaluations of the prospective crew members for the U.S. based cruise lines.

Many young women like Ms. Samaroo dream of traveling to a U.S. port to join a cruise line for a better life for themselves and their families back home.  

A website focusing on abduction in Trinidad, Missingtrinbagonians, raises a number of questions about this case:

What is the name of the placement agency?   What is the name of the owner of the agency?  Why hasn’t a copy of the ad been reproduced by the newspaper which ran it?  Has anyone else used this agency’s services?  What is the name of the clinic where the medical examination was conducted?  What is the name of the doctor who performed the examination?  Have records been found for her appointment?  Did the doctor corroborate the information given by the placement agency?

Other questions to be asked.  Which cruise lines use this hiring agency?   Are the cruise lines aware of these type of hiring practices?     

 

 

Credits:           

Photograph          Missingtrinbagonians 

Video         TV 6 Trinidad 

"Pleasure Cruises Bring Risks Too" Features Cruise Victims

An article in the Baltimore Sun entitled "Pleasure Cruise Bring Risks, Too" addresses the limited liability of cruise lines when tragedy strikes a family during a cruise.  Written by Frank Roylance, the article begins with the sad circumstances of Carnival cruise passenger Carol Olson who died during what appears to be a very lax, unsupervised and negligently operated snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Roylance discusses injuries, deaths, and crimes on cruise ships and the frustration experienced by cruise passengers seeking accountability from the foreign flagged cruise ships sailing from ports like Baltimore where Ms. Olson sailed from not to return.  Notwithstanding the fact that the cruise industry collects over $35 billion from Americans each year, cruise lines argue Internatonal Cruise Victims - ICV - Ken Carver - Lynnette Hudsonthat the cruise excursion companies and ship doctors are "independent contractors" and deaths are governed by the "Death On The High Seas Act."  Called "DOHSA," this outdated law provides no recovery for a cruise passenger's pain and suffering or the grief, bereavement, sadness and mourning of surviving family members.

Cruise lines have erected all of these legal obstacles to limit or take away cruise passengers' rights.

The article mentions the story of Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV"), who lost his daughter Merrian during a cruise aboard the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.  Following her disturbing and mysterious "disappearance," the cruise covered the incident up and lied to the Carver family.

Another member of the ICV mentioned in the article is firm client Lynnette Hudson who lost her father, Richard Liffridge, because of a fire on Princess Cruises' Star Princess cruise ship.  Because of DOHSA, which provides no compensation to retired passengers on cruise ships, the cruise line "didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," said Ms. Liffridge.

The article also mentioned the problem of crimes on cruise ships and the "Vessel Safety and Security Act" which, once enacted into law, will require cruise lines to report shipboard crimes to the FBI for the first time in the history of the cruise industry.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - PR - PravdaLanie Fagan, a PR spokesperson for the cruise industry's lobbying company, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), wrote to the Baltimore Sun claiming that cruise lines "already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities."  This is a false statement.  There is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report rapes, assaults and other crimes against Americans in international waters to the FBI or the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Unfortunately, this is just another false PR statement from a cruise industry sorely lacking in credibility.  In response to this falsehood, the newspaper quoted me stating:

"If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

 

The article is re-printed below in its entirety:

PLEASURE CRUISES BRING RISKS, TOO - Families Say Tragedies Expose Cruise Lines' Limited Liability

Cruise lines make their money offering vacationers more of everything: Sunshine, food and drink, excitement.

But when tragedy strikes — when a passenger is injured, or dies, or simply disappears — survivors say the cruise lines can be downright stingy: Reluctant to accept responsibility, tight even with information about what happened.

Long-established U.S. Maritime law limits the lines' financial liability, in the event of the death of a passenger, to lost income, so there is often no compensation for the loss of the very young or the retired beyond funeral expenses, legal experts say.

The death of Carol Martin Olson stirred an unwelcome sense of déjà vu among those who have lost loved ones about cruise ships.

The 71-year-old Reisterstown woman, a passenger aboard the Carnival Pride, died April 30 while on a snorkeling tour off Freeport in the Bahamas. Bahamian authorities have ruled the death an accidental drowning.

"My heart goes out to [Olson's] family," said Lynnette Hudson, 46, of Bear, Del, whose father died of smoke inhalation when his cruise ship caught fire off Jamaica in 2006.

"The family is going to be dealing with a brick wall, and the cruise industry is going to tell them her life had no value. They will not take responsibility for the things they should be accountable for," Hudson said.

Lanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, said passenger safety is the industry's "number one priority," and that cruise lines are obligated to exercise "reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions." The companies also share a "zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crime."

But advocates for cruise passengers say few people who board the big liners for carefree vacations are aware of just how much risk they bear.

The issue is increasingly significant for Marylanders as Baltimore grows as a cruise hub. Five lines now sail from the Locust Point Cruise Terminal. More than 165,000 passengers left port in 2009 on 81 cruises. The commerce pumped an estimated $152 million into the local economy and sustained 1,550 jobs, according to the Maryland Port Administration.

Olson and her husband, Harry A. Olson, left Baltimore on April 25 aboard the Carnival Pride, along with several members of their church, Trinity Lutheran in Reisterstown. On April 30th, with the ship in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, they joined a snorkeling tour they had booked through Carnival.

The tour was operated by a third-party contractor that Carnival officials say they have dealt with for 10 years.

Other snorkelers said the tour was advertised as requiring "moderate exercise." But they told The Baltimore Sun that they were taken to a reef where waves and strong currents quickly exhausted even relatively young, strong swimmers, pulling them away from the boat.

"I consider myself a pretty strong swimmer," said Lyn Halavats, 46, of Troy, Mo. She said she and her husband were among the first off the boat. "I wanted to get in as much snorkeling as I could."

But in just 10 or 15 minutes, she said, "I was pretty far from the boat, and I kind of started to panic. … I started to swim pretty hard, but I wasn't getting anywhere."

With considerable effort, she managed to get back near the boat, where she saw Olson, who still had a snorkel in her mouth, but appeared unconscious as passengers and crew struggled to get her onto the boat.

Passengers interviewed by The Baltimore Sun said crew members seemed unprepared, or unwilling to perform CPR leaving passengers to attempt it. The boat was not equipped with ship-to-shore radio, the passengers said, and it took 90 minutes or more to get Olson to medical help in Freeport, where she was pronounced dead.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen contradicted the passengers' accounts. He said Friday that the tour boat crew had both radio and cell phones. They alerted their office, which brought an ambulance to the dock. Four of the five crewmen were CPR-trained, he said, but "since CPR was being administered properly by other guests, the captain allowed that process to continue."

Gulliksen said the weather at the time was "good," and the tour was on a side of the island sheltered from the wind. He said that while Carnival provides "general" guidelines, "the guest also must evaluate their own fitness level" in deciding on a tour. Refunds are available to those who back out, he said.

Jennifer de la Cruz, also with Carnival, expressed "heartfelt condolences" to Olson's family. Mr. Olson and his son, David B. Olson, were assisted in the Bahamas by a Carnival "Care Team."

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman said, cruise lines have a responsibility to "exercise reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions," and "a legal duty not to sell excursions they believe to be unsafe." Carnival has suspended its contract with the tour provider.

But Jim Walker, a Florida attorney who specializes in cruise line litigation, said passengers are largely on their own when they take shore tours with third parties under contract to the cruise lines.

When they market the tours, the lines "do business with passengers on the promise that these [tours] have been vetted, and investigated, and that they have better safety records" than tours passengers might find on their own, Walker said. And, the lines get a cut of the fees passengers pay for the tours.

The cruise companies are legally obligated to warn passengers of any dangers associated with the tour. And they are required to scrutinize the tour operators, inspect their facilities, safety protocols and operations.

So, "as long as they do that basic investigation, they're going to say they fully complied with the law," Walker said. That clears the cruise line.

Even if the tour company is then negligent, he said, "that does not create negligence on behalf of the cruise line." And when the tour operators are not U.S. companies, the families of passengers who are killed or injured will have a difficult time suing them directly.

Similar problems can arise with medical issues involving shipboard doctors, who Walker said are typically are not U.S.-trained or licensed.

"The cruise lines are not liable for the negligence of the ship's doctors," he said. "They are independent contractors."

Kendall Carver is chairman of International Cruise Victims, which advocates for the families of people who are victims of crimes or accidents on cruise lines. When tragedy strikes, he said, the cruise companies typically provide little information or compensation to passengers' families.

Carver said he lost his 40-year-old daughter, Merrian, when she disappeared on an Alaska cruise in 2004. She was never found.

"We hired a private investigator, and two law firms," he said. "All we wanted to do was talk to the steward, and that took court action in Massachusetts and Florida."

They eventually learned Merrian had been reported missing daily by the steward. "Cover-up was standard operating procedure," Carver said.

Collecting compensation for family members who are lost on board is also problematic.

Passenger or crew deaths that occur beyond U.S. territorial waters fall under the Death on the High Seas Act, which limits damages strictly to financial losses.

"No pre-death pain and suffering, no grief, bereavement, sadness of the husband or her family," Walker said. "The total damages that can be awarded are strictly financial losses."

When victims in these cases are children, or retired and no longer earning money, all that can be recovered are funeral and burial expenses. And that's normally too little to warrant the costs of the lawsuit, Walker said. "It's not a case anyone would pursue."

Lynnette Hudson, whose father died in the ship fire off Jamaica, said her family got little assistance from the cruise line, and they had to read the maritime accident report to learn how he died.

When they brought a wrongful death suit, they learned that under the Death on the High Seas Act, her father's life, because he was 72 and retired, had no monetary value. "They didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," she said.

Some crime-related problems would be addressed by legislation now pending before Congress, Walker said. The Cruise Safety and Security Act has already passed the House. A Senate vote is expected soon.

For the first time, Walker said, cruise lines sailing in or out of U.S. ports would be required to report all crimes to the FBI and the Coast Guard. Ships would also be required to carry rape kits and anti-retroviral medicines to protect rape victims from HIV infections.

And the cruise companies would have to make public all shipboard crimes. "The public will know the crimes that occur and see which ships have the greatest problems," Walker said.

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman, said the cruise lines already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities.

"Under the proposed legislation, the procedures for reporting allegations of crimes will be clarified and further codified, goals the cruise industry fully supports," she said.

But Walker said the existing requirement applies only to crimes that occur in U.S. waters.

"The cruise industry has always taken the position … that you can't touch us unless we are in U.S. waters," he said. "If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

Walker said the new legislation, if passed, will be "a major improvement on issues of crime," he said, but it does not address liability issues related to the Death on the High Seas Act, or third-party contractors, such as tour operators and shipboard doctors.

"That's our next step," Carver said.

 

Credits:

Article -  Frank Roylance of the Baltimore Sun; Sun reporter Michelle Deal-Zimmerman contributed to the article. 

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"

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

 

 

 

Police Arrest Driver of Princess Cruises Excursion Bus In Tortola

The police in Tortola arrested the driver of the excursion bus used by Princess Cruises to transport cruise passengers from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship to the "Tropical Forest Hike and Beach" tour sold by the cruise line. 

BVI News Online reports that the police took Roland Allen, age 32, of Baughers Bay, Tortola BVI, into custody last night and charged with "causing death by dangerous driving."

Tortola BVI - Bus Excursion Accident - Princess CruisesWe reported on this tragedy yesterday in an article "Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises' Passengers From Caribbean Princess."

The article mentions that the deceased passenger, previously identified as Aaron Humphrey, has bean identified as Aaron Rumphrey, from Honeoye, New York. 

Mr. Rumphrey and his parents had previously been hiking with 17 other passengers from Princess Cruises' cruise ship.  When the tour bus ran off the road, Mr. Rumphrey was ejected through the front windshield.  The tour bus did not have either seat belts or shoulder harnesses.

Cruise lines like Princess are legally obligated to investigate and audit excursion companies used  for the tours advertised and sold by the cruise lines so that the passengers are reasonably safe.  Using a bus with no seat belts or shoulder harnesses is unreasonably dangerous, particularly given the road conditions in Tortola.   

An article today on WHEC.com describes the young man as "kind and friendly."  Mr. Rumphrey had been a student at the Cobblestone Arts Center in New York in an arts program for students with developmental disabilities.  The article describes how he would make other students laugh and inspire them.  A supervisor at the program is quoted saying "he was a great guy.”

February 25, 2010 Update:

Princess Cruises Passenger is Remembered as an "Easy, Gracious Man"

 

Photo Credit:

Cruise excursion bus            BVI Platinum News

 

Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises' Passengers From Caribbean Princess

CruiseCritic reports that an excursion tour bus taking passengers from Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess cruise ship crashed in Tortola.

In an article entitled "Tragic Bus Accident on Cruise-Sponsored Shore Excursion,"  the CruiseCritic website reports that the cruise sponsored tour bus was headed to a "Tropical Forest Hike and Beach." 

Princess Cruises Excursion - Tortola - Tour Bus AccidentThe tour bus (photo left) "went off the road and flipped earlier today.  Of the 20 passengers onboard, one person was killed and two others were seriously injured."

According to CruiseCritic, the injured passengers were taken to a local hospital, while the other passengers were taken back to the cruise ship. The passenger who died was a 24-year-old man from Rochester, New York, on vacation with his parents, who were also on the tour.

BVI News Online reports that the deceased passenger is Aaron Humphry who died at at Peebles Hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

The BVI News reports that twenty cruise ship passengers from the Caribbean Princess were on a tour bus descending onto the Windy Hill Road on Tortola when the driver struck an embankment and the vehicle overturned.

Seven passengers were taken to the hospital while the other 13 passengers were assessed at the scene and taken back to the cruise ship. Five were treated and discharged while one passenger has been retained for a fractured shoulder bone. The unidentified driver was treated and released.

Princess Cruises issued a statement that it is "providing support to the family during this difficult time."  Behind the scenes, Princess Cruises is also sending a team of lawyers from Miami to Tortola to begin to defend the cruise line's interests.  The same Miami cruise line defense lawyers who traveled to the Star Princess when it caught fire near Jamaica in 2006 are flying to Tortola today.

The Princess Cruises web site describes the tour bus as an "open air safari bus."  (However, the bus in the BVI News photograph appears to be an enclosed bus).  Princess Cruises describes the excursion as follows:

"This excursion visits two of Tortola's most popular attractions--Sage Mountain National Park and one of its beautiful beaches . . . Board your open-air safari bus and drive along the island's scenic Ridge Road to Sage Mountain National Park  . . . 

Dominica truck excursion crash - Celebrity CruisesThis is the second serious excursion vehicular accident in the last year. 

Exactly one year ago today, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises'  Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica (photo left).  We are representing passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.

Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

"Open air safari" buses and other similar vehicles in the Caribbean are often designed without seat belts or shoulder harnesses, and the vehicles are also often substandard.  It remains to be seen what the local police's investigation reveals about this particular accident.

It is also likely that the defense lawyers for the cruise line have already hired their own experts to take a look at the vehicle with an eye toward defending the cruise line.  Most excursion companies associated with the cruise line are required to maintain liability insurance with U.S. Tortola excursion crash - Princess Cruisesinsurance underwriters.  These underwriters work with the cruise line to maintain a united defense against any passenger who is injured in excursion accidents like this.    

The BVI Platinum News has a slide show of detailed photographs of the damages excursion bus after the accident, which are available online.  

February 24, 2010 Update:

The deceased passenger has been correctly identified as Aaron Rumphrey.

The police arrested the driver of the excursion bus - Police Arrest Driver of Princess Cruises Excursion Bus In Tortola.

 

Credit:

CruiseJunkie.com

Photograph of Tortola bus excursion accident     BVI News Online

Photograph of Dominica excursion crash         thedominican.net 

Photographs (slide show) of Tortola excursion bus                 BVI Platinum News 
 

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

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

Royal Caribbean "Dowry Death" Case Update

The sad case of Neha Chhikara who jumped from the Royal Caribbean cruise on December 31, 2009 continues to receive widespread attention in India.  Her friends have expressed condolences to the Chhikara family for her untimely death.   

Newspapers in India are now reporting that the family of the accused crew member Ankit Dalal has responded to the charges.  In an article "Accused In-Laws Speak Out," the HinduTimes states that Mr. Dalal's father, Dr. Satyavir Dalal, released a statement stating that his daughter-in-law was depressed and took anti-depressant medications.  He suggested that this may have led her to suicide. 

Dr. Dalal is the chief medical officer for the Gurgaon Civil Hospital.  His statement raises issues whether there is a confidentiality privilege in India for medical information of this type.

The Indian newspapers are suggesting that an investigation may be underway in the Bahamas (which is the law of the flag, and the incident may have occurred in Bahamian waters).   

It is also reported that Ms. Chhikara (a former "air hostess" for Indigo airlines) came to the U.S. in mid December.  She had been accepted to work as a crew member aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  At the time of the incident, she had apparently not yet begun to work and her status was technically that as a "passenger."

"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