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 happened. 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