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 there 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