6 Years Later: Verdict in Deadly Sinking of Sea Diamond Cruise Ship

Long before Captain Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into the rocks off of the coast of Giglio, another captain of a passenger cruise ship slammed his vessel into the rock and sank the ship.

Six years ago, the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank off the coast of Santoniri. Two French cruise passengers drown. 

In both cases, the captain's poor navigational skills, recklessness and negligence in efficiently evacuating the cruise ship killed passengers.

Sea Diamond SinkingAfter a long legal proceeding, a  three judge panel in Piraeus sentenced the ship's captain to 12 years and two months in jail and sanctioned him €8,000 fine.  The judges sentenced an employee of DNV (Det Norske Veritas), which deemed the cruise ship seaworthy, to eight years.

The cruise ship, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on April 6 2007 after ramming  a reef near the Aegean island of Santorini with 1,195 passengers and 391 crew on board.

A French man, Jean Christophe Allain (age 45) and his daughter Maud (age 16), died. 

According to a Greek newspaper, the judges also sentenced the navigation officer (two years and 10 months), chief engineer (two years and four months), company's legal representative (two years), an inspector/auditor (15 months) and a security officer (six months and a €600 fine).

The newspaper states that it is unlikely that anyone will serve actual jail time.

The judges acquitted the ship's first engineer officer, chief officer, chief steward and the cabin manager. 

After the verdict, Louis Hellenic vowed to appeal the decisions. 

The Debate Continues: Does Maritime Law Favor Only The Cruise Lines?

Sea Diamond - Cruise Ship Sinking Take a look at the photograph on the left.  Can you identify it?

Nine times out of ten, I bet the answer is of course, its the Costa Concordia.  You know, the cruise ship that crashed into rocks last last month near the Italian island of Giglio.

Wrong.  Its a photo of the Sea Diamond, which capsized after hitting a reef in Greek waters in 2007 and sank with loss of life.

The story of the Sea Diamond is one that the cruise lines and cruise industry supporters ignore while extolling the safety of cruising.

The photo of the stricken Sea Diamond is part of a Reuters article this morning questioning whether the cruise lines benefit from overreaching contractual terms and the absence of consumer laws protecting the public.   The article is entitled "Insight: Cruise-Laws Leave Cruise Ship Victims at Sea." It explains how the cruise lines erect a series of hurdles which make if difficult to seek compensation or justice when things go wrong on the high seas. The journalists interviewed a number of cruise passengers who were injured or lost loved ones during cruises.

Another article,taking a different perspective, was also published this morning.  The cruise friendly on-line community Cruisemates published "Cruisin' U.S.A."   

The article suggests that foreign flagged cruise ship are subject to Federal laws, international regulations, and the scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Customs and Border Patrol.  The author did not interview anyone.  The only link was to the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association.  The article contains no historical perspective, and contains no photographs of sinking cruise ships.

As the cruise industry braces for the negative publicity which will surround the Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety later this month, you will see a series of competing articles like this.  The debate is a healthy one.  The cruise industry will put its best foot forward using a platform of cruise supporters like Cruisemates and Cruise Critic and certain travel agent bloggers.  And real journalists like the folks at Reuters will chip away at the facade and reveal the dark side of the cruise industry.  

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

39 Costa Concordia Passengers File $528 Million Lawsuit in Miami - Weird Press Conference Follows

Yesterday, New York lawyers for Costa Concordia cruise survivors filed an amended lawsuit in Miami, adding 33 additional passengers as plaintiffs.  The lawyers are seeking $78 million in compensatory damages and $450 in punitive damages for a total amount of $528 million on behalf of 39 passengers.

Although the lawyers called the original filing a "class action" lawsuit, the case was first filed by only 6 passengers, two from New York, two from Florida and two from Italy.  The amended filing does not seek class action status.

The prospects of this lawsuit filed in state court in Miami surviving a motion to dismiss is slim, Oceanos Sinkingnotwithstanding the ordeal suffered by the completely innocent passengers.  Seeking $528 million dollars for just 39 of the over 3,000 passengers seems like a publicity stunt. 

The lawyers held a press conference yesterday afternoon, which was one of the weirder developments in the Costa Concordia saga.

New York lawyer Marc Bern, of the law firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik and Associates said "Only one cruise ship has gone down in over 100 years, the Titanic.  Now the Costa Concordia will live in infamy with it." 

Of course, this is not true. Over the years there has been numerous sinkings of cruise ships.

Just five years ago, the Sea Diamond sank after the captain hit a charted reef in Greek water, resulting in the loss of passengers' lives. 

Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo above left), where the captain abandoned ship leaving women, children and elderly passengers to die (they miraculously survived). 

The sinking of the Oceanos is featured on my list of top 5 cruise ship disasters - watch the video here

Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista (photo below right) which burned and sank.

Sinking of the Sun VistaNo one can forget the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which ironically enough was home ported in Genoa, Italy where Costa is based.  It sank in the Atlantic after a collision with another cruise ship (my great aunt was a passenger and was rescued). 

The fire and sinking of the Yarmouth Castle resulted in nearly one hundred dead passengers and crew.

Add to this list, the sinking of the SeaBreeze I, the Majestic Explorer, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria and the Mikhail Lermontov (which sank in 100 feet of water off the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef).  

One of the goals of the highly publicized $528 million lawsuit is supposedly to make cruising safer.  It's painful to watch non-maritime lawyers seek over one-half billion dollars for 39 survivors without acknowledging the numerous passenger and crew deaths caused by cruise ship sinkings over the years, from the Andrea Doria to the Sea Diamond

February 15, 2012 Update:  A friend emailed me and brought to my attention that I forgot to mention the fire and sinking of the famous Achille Lauro, which sank in 1994 in the Indian Ocean.  

Do you know of additional cruise ship sinkings?   Please leave a comment below.

President of International Cruise Victims Questions Cruise Passenger Safety - Louis Cruise Lines No Stranger to Disaster

This morning Kendall Carver, President of the International Cruise Victims organization, appeared on the "Fox and Friends" television show regarding the death of passengers aboard the Louis Majesty cruise ship.  

Ken Carver - International Cruise VictimsMr. Carver raised the issue why the passengers were not warned of the wave conditions before the disaster, based on information gathered from the ship's radar and ocean buoys.  Waves of this height (around 30 feet) are not considered to be "rogue" waves and are to be reasonably expected on a cyclical basis. 

Mr. Carver also questioned why passengers were sitting in public areas with unsecured items around them near the glass windows when the waves crashed against the ship, and why the Louis Cruise Line officers did not inform the passengers to secure themselves in their cabins.

No Stranger to Disaster

In response to our first article on this incident - Monster Waves Hit Louis Majesty Cruise Ship - a reader, Jose, left an interesting comment:

A coincidence? This ship was owned by the company Louis Cruises whose "Sea Diamond" sank in Santorini on 5th April three years ago; two people also died . . . I was on board the ship when she crashed and sank.

The reader is referring to the sinking of the Sea Diamond cruise ship which struck a reef in Santorini, Greece.  The reef was in a known and well marked location.  The vessel's hull was ruptured and the cruise ship took on water.  Rather than grounding the vessel in shallow water, the officers thereafter took the vessel into deep water, where it sank. 

1,600 persons were evacuated, but two passengers, a father and daughter, were lost. There was a consensus that the officers engaged in reckless seamanship.  Greek maritime authorities arrested the cruise ship's Master and five officers and charged them with negligence. 

Photographs of the sinking of the Sea Diamond can be viewed at the web site of Michael Hipler.

 

 

Credits:

Ken Carver     KPHO News

Sea Diamond cruise ship     YouTube BlueDonkeyMan