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 Carnival Dreamhappened. 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

  • Rick M

    So these cruiselines charge you tax on booze and they pocket that tax money!!!

  • xyz

    frankly speaking most of the medical staff are incompetent. Every visit charge around $100. For crew any illness/sickness just 3 medicines…amoxycillin, paracetemol, ibruofen all 2*500 mg dose.

    Crew can only have 1 unit alcohol above that u can be breathalyzed and sent home. For passengers…sky is the limit. Nowadays a new system has been introduced by cruiseliners where they can buy alcohol/wine packages before the embark. So the crew dont get incentives on those but still must serve. Basic salary £270…High time US/UK government impose minimum wage requirements just like UKPH & USPH inspections. Its slave labour basically bcoz u cant question, if u question u are sent home just like 150 waiters on Arcadia. My friends on P&O tell me that life is worse for them now even after MLC 2006. Too many extra duties. Headwaiters have been promoted to Officers so that they can trouble the waiters more.

    This tax evasion loophole should be closed ASAP

  • Chris

    Is it too much to ask for personal responsibility to be a thing? Why should any company, be it a Cruise Line, a bar, a restaurant, etc. be responsible for a person not knowing their limits? Nobody is forcing the alcohol down their throats – if they drink too much, that should be the individual’s problem, not the business’s.

  • Maritime law requires cruise lines to exhibit corporate responsibility. A cruise line can’t over-serve alcohol to the point of killing the passenger, make a profit in the process, hire incompetent medical staff and escape legal liability.