Tonight ABC’s 20/20 will take a look at the case of a cruise passenger who fell from her balcony, struck a lifeboat below her, and then plunged into the water.
Although her fall was captured on the cruise ship’s surveillance cameras, the ship sailed on. That’s because Carnival did not have an automatic man overboard system in place to notify the bridge that a person went overboard.
The camera which recorded the passenger going overboard was not monitored by a cruise ship employee, nor was it tied to an alarm system of any type.
It took an hour and one-half for the cruise line to figure out what happened and turn around and rescue the young woman. The fact that she was still alive is a miracle.
I do not represent this woman although I was interviewed during the program, which you can see a portion of from this morning’s Good Morning America program.
Some people may say that it was the woman’s fault for drinking too much and she’s to blame for falling overboard. A jury can apportion fault to both the passenger and the cruise line. Cruise lines in our jurisdiction have legal liability when they over-serve alcohol to passengers. Selling booze is a major money maker for cruise lines. Cruise lines don’t make money selling cruise tickets. The big money comes from “onboard purchases,” like excursions, gift shop purchases, casino gambling and, number one profit center, pushing alcohol sales.
But the story is not just about who’s to blame for the alcohol and the fall overboard.
In 2010, Congress passed a law requiring that cruise lines install man overboard technology. The cruise lines have come up with a boat load of excuses why they have not complied with the law, like the technology doesn’t exist, or it’s inaccurate and unreliable, or its just too expensive.
But there is no question the technology exists. My belief is that the cruise lines simply don’t want to spend the money.
The systems are required irrespective of why a person goes overboard. If they are drunk, or acting irresponsibly, or they fall by accident, or they want to commit suicide, or they are thrown overboard, it doesn’t matter. The cruise lines must have the systems in place.
The vast majority of cruise ships don’t.
They would rather keep the money and accuse the passengers of being drunk on the alcohol the cruise ship sold.
Delays in promptly reporting overboard passengers to the U.S. Coast Guard causes the rescue to encompass massive areas of the ocean. This costs the Coast Guard a lot of money, sometimes $1,000,000 in unnecessary costs for helicopters, aircraft and cutters. Who pays for that? Not the cruise lines. They don’t even pay any U.S. taxes. U.S. taxpayers do!
The 20/20 program airs tonight at 10:00 PM EST.
Have a thought? Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.