A year ago, I wrote about a passenger drowning on the Princess Sapphire Princess. The passenger’s death is just one of many mishaps where cruise passengers were killed or seriously injured in a lifeguard-less swimming pool on a Carnival, Disney, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Princess responded to our request for a comment at the time. After the obligatory "our thoughts and prayers are with our guest’s family," the cruise line refused to comment except to say that "the incident is under investigation."
Well, the investigation is over. The UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that the cruise line’s use of a warning sign (stating that lifeguards are not on duty & persons using the pools do so at their own risk) was inadequate to reasonably safeguard its guests.
The drowning occurred in the Neptune pool on deck 14 forward. The MAIB noted that the swimming pool was not supervised. The medical team, once it finally arrived, did a good job but was unreasonably delayed. Crew members who first responded were not trained in CPR. The victim was discovered by other passengers who were unfamiliar with CPR. The crew member (a Serbian) involved in calling 911 for emergency medical attention could not communicate with the crew member (an Asian) who answered the call due to a language barrier.
Princess had not performed a a risk assessment relating to hazards involved in the use of swimming pools. Princess also failed to assign designated attendants to the pool and failed to monitor the pool via CCTV.
The regulations on safety in swimming pools ashore "strongly indicates that constant poolside supervision provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety." However, it also recognizes that a risk assessment may determine circumstances where a safe swimming environment can be delivered without constant poolside supervision, which Princess did not conduct. The guidance specifically recommends constant poolside supervision with deeper polls and where food and drink are available to pool users, both of which applied to the Neptune Pool on the cruise ship.
Princess also failed to train their hotel staff in medical first-aid techniques or require such training prior to being hired.
The MAIB stated that "the lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the response to the incident in respect of raising an alarm and administering appropriate medical treatment. The monitoring of CCTV coverage of the area might have prompted an earlier response and would have given post-incident information."
The MAIB said, simply, that the "use of a ship’s swimming pools is a significant part of a holiday experience, and a passenger’s awareness of any attendant risk is likely to be lower . . . "
The report also stressed that "with no designated attendants at the vessel’s pools, it was left to other pool users and bystanders to recognize that (the victim) was in need of urgent assistance and to raise an alarm . . . had there been a dedicated pool attendant monitoring the passengers in the pool, the victim’s situation could have been identified at the earliest possible opportunity."
The MAIB concluded that ‘the staffing of pool areas with personnel who are suitably trained in medical first-aid would allow a more appropriate response to medical emergencies."
The MAIB mentioned two further swimming pool accidents involving passengers on board Princess cruise ships – a drowning on the Diamond Princess on June 23, 2015, and a near-drowning on the Sapphire Princess on August 5, 2015 which you can read about here. We are unfamiliar with the June 23, 2015 incident (does anyone have info?)
It appears that as of this late date, despite multiple incidents, Princess has still not even conducted a risk assessment for its pools nor has it assigned lifeguards or monitors to this dangerous location.
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Photo Credit: Top – gov.uk MAIB; bottom – Pro Publica