Last Wednesday, I received a number of messages from cruise passengers about an incident on board Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas regarding what was described as a woman (passenger) who either suffered a heart attack or nearly drowned in one of the ship's swimming pools.
The cruise ship increased its speed to arrive back in port in New Jersey so that the passenger could receive shore-side medical treatment, although some people indicated that the woman died on the ship while it was returning to port.
This weekend, the Jersey Journal posted an article titled Cruise ship sped back to Bayonne after woman's medical emergency in pool: Royal Caribbean. The article quoted one of the ship's passengers who reportedly witnessed part of what happened when the Anthem was about halfway through its return voyage from Bermuda to Bayonne:
"When we arrived in the area, she had just been pulled from the water and was unresponsive and had a pale/purple look."
A press release issued by Royal Caribbean, however, downplayed the incident saying:
"On Tuesday, August 10, a 72-year old female from the U.S. onboard Anthem of the Seas was witnessed by guests having difficulty swimming in one of the ship’s pools. The guest was helped out of the pool, was initially treated by the ship’s medical team, but required additional medical attention. Therefore, the ship increased its speed for the earliest possible arrival into Cape Liberty, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team provided support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them."
The newspaper said that none of several area hospitals in Hudson County and Staten Island, or the U.S. Coast Guard for the New York/New Jersey area, or the Bayonne Police Department had "knowledge of any cases matching Royal Caribbean's description of the incident."
Did the woman pass away after being pulled from the water unresponsive (or "helped out of the pool" as the cruise line euphemistically puts it)? Why wasn't a medevac by helicopter requested? (We have reported on a prior medevac this June when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew 260 miles out to pick up ill passengers from a NCL cruise ship).
Royal Caribbean is no stranger to swimming pool medical emergencies. An eight year old boy died after being pulled from an unattended swimming pool on the Anthem of the Seas in June of this year. A four year old and a six year old nearly drowned in pools on the Oasis of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas respectively.
Before this latest incident, fourteen (14) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including eleven children. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly blame the children's parents for not paying attention. But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years.
Lifeguards, of course, do more than just keep kids safe in pools. A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can provide immediate CPR on the scene of a heart attack or other medical emergency.
If a passenger suffers a near drowning or a heart attack, and a lifeguard is not on the scene to immediately provide CPR, it may be too late - for the medical team to run up from a lower deck on a huge ship, for ship personnel to decide whether to request a helicopter medevac, or for the ship to speed up to return to port.