In a press release, the the U.S. Coast Guard announced that it suspended its search and rescue efforts for a passenger who went overboard from the Carnival Paradise on May 22, 2018. The Coast Guard stated that it ended its search on the following day at approximately 9 P.M. (May 23, 2018), which is approximately 35 hours after Carnival notified it (at 10:00 A.M. on May 22nd) that a passenger was missing from the cruise ship. (The Coast Guard’s press release erroneously states that it searched for 55 hours).
The Coast Guard indicated that its search covered a vast grid, consisting of over 3,000 square miles.
The Coast Guard reportedly deployed a "C-130 Hercules aircraft and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft crew from Air Station Miami, and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, homeported in Key West."
The huge search grid and the deployment of a helicopter, two aircraft and a cutter to search over 3,000 square miles were necessary due to Carnival’s apparent delay in notifying the Coast Guard of the missing passenger, who was subsequently identified as Brian Lamonds of Greensboro, North Carolina.
According to the press release, Coast Guard watchstanders in Key West received a call via marine band radio at approximately 10 A.M. on May 22nd from the cruise ship stating the passenger was missing and reportedly went overboard.
Based on the information received from Carnival, the Coast Guard stated that Mr. Lamonds went overboard "about 85 miles west of Fort Myers." This suggests that Mr. Lamonds probably went overboard early in the morning hours of May 22nd after the ship left Tampa late on the afternoon of May 21st. Obviously the man overboard did not occur off the coast of Fort Meyers at 10:00 A.M. Fort Meyers is around 125 nautical miles north of Key West, which is around 6 to 8 hours away from Key West given an approximate vessel speed of 15 to 20 knots. If Carnival didn’t notify the Coast Guard until 10:00 A.M., an hour from its scheduled arrival at 11:00 A.M., the cruise ship was probably just 15 or 20 nautical miles north of Key West at this point. The cruise ship had sailed for many hours since Mr. Lamonds went overboard.
A passenger tweeted as of 10:01 A.M. on May 22nd "On the #CarnivalParadise … they are now doing room to room searches for a passenger. Praying he’s passed out in a room." She later tweeted that the 11:00 A.M. disembarkation was delayed for at least 45 minutes. So if this information is correct, it appears that Carnival was searching on the ship for him when it requested the Coast Guard to begin its search at 10:00 A.M.
The most likely scenario is that the Carnival Paradise is not equipped with an automatic man overboard system that would send a signal and sound an alarm in the bridge as soon as someone went over the rails of the ship. At that point, modern state-of-the-art systems would use infrared and radar technology to track the person in the water, even at night.
Cruise ships that have not installed these systems have to rely on a report from a crew member or another guest who may have happened to witness the man going overboard. The ship’s officers would then have to manually review CCTV surveillance videos to see if the man overboard can be verified and, if so, when and where the person went into the water. Many cruise lines require that the ship contact the marine operation and/or security department back in Miami before turning the ship around. In this case, we know from AIS data (right) that the Carnival Paradise never turned the ship around or conducted any type of search in the water.
The 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act requires cruise lines to employ current MOB technology whenever feasible. Many cruise lines and their defenders claim that the technology is not reliable. But there are highly reputable manufacturers with tested and proven technology that works impressively.
I attended all of the many hearings in Congress before the automatic man overboard law was passed eight years ago. I watched the cruise lines and lobbying firms spend millions of dollars fighting against the legislation. It’s disheartening to see the cruise lines still failing to install the systems. These systems save lives. Without such a system, cruise lines must review the CCTV video after-the-fact to see if it shows anyone going over the rails and then search the passenger cabins when their guest has already gone into the water hours earlier, to only then belatedly call on the Coast Guard to essentially search for a needle in a haystack. Plus, it’s a huge waste of time and taxpayer money (that the foreign flagged cruise industry doesn’t have to pay).
I’ve sent a Freedom of Information (FOIA) to the Coast Guard to request for the details of exactly when Carnival notified the Coast Guard of the overboard guest, where the ship was located when it first realized that a guest was missing, and when and how the guest went overboard. I also will try to determine how much it costs for the Coast Guard to launch two search-aircraft, a helicopter and a cutter from stations around Florida to search a grid pattern of over 3,000 square miles for 35 hours. I estimate that the figure is probably around $1,000,000 which would have been far better spent in installing life-saving technology in the first place.
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