The lawsuit we filed this week of behalf of our clients for the death of their daughter, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, has been covered in the Miami New Times and USA Today this week.  The article, written by Tim Elfrink, for the Miami New Times is entitled "Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout."

"Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was celebrating her quinceañera on a Carnival cruise with her parents last summer when an employee convinced the family to join an excursion in St. Thomas. What he didn’t mention, Chaparro’s family says, is that a heated gang war was raging in the area.

Liz Marie Perez Chaparro - Death - Carnival Cruise Chaparro died on a tour bus when a shootout exploded between the rival gangs at a funeral, peppering the young tourist with bullets. Her family filed suit against Carnival today, alleging they should have known the violence was likely.

Chaparro and her parents, Ceferino Perez and Aida Esther Chaparro, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They saved for ten months to pay for her quinceañera cruise last July, they told the Virgin Island Daily News.

On July 12, one of the first nights of the cruise, Perez was drinking on deck when a cruise employee sold him on a trip to Coki Beach, a popular sandy stretch in St. Thomas.

But Perez didn’t know that the Virgin Islands at the time were riding an all-time high homicide streak, he says in his lawsuit. Already that calendar year, the islands — with a population of 100,000 — had seen 43 murders.

What’s more, Perez says, the week before a gang member had been shot and killed at a mall near Coki Beach and his gang had planned a funeral at a cemetery near the beach on the day of the excursion.

"(Carnival) should have known there was a high risk of an attempted gang revenge killing at the funeral," Perez says in the suit.

Either way, soon after Perez and his family boarded the bus for Coki Beach it was trapped on a two-lane road blocked by the gang members.  When a shootout broke out, their bus was caught in the crossfire.

Fourteen-year-old Liz Marie Chaparro died on the scene.

A Carnival spokesperson didn’t immediately return a phone call and an email about the lawsuit this morning; we’ll update the post when we hear back."

 

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime – Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Our firm is investigating the tragic death of a young girl who was shot and killed while ashore in St. Thomas during a cruise.  This child was one of hundred of thousands of passengers who sail into this beautiful island each year without realizing that St. Thomas has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.  It’s murder rate this year at the time of the young girl’s death was 42 in a population of only 100,000.

Unfortunately, most cruise lines did not warn their passengers of the substantial dangers which exist on this island upon disembarking from the cruise ship.   

Here is our blog on this terrible situation:

More Caribbean Crime – Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Have you been on a cruise and been a victim of a crime ashore in St. Thomas?

Are you a tourist robbed or attacked while visiting St. Thomas?

Do you know someone who was the victim of a violent crime in St. Thomas?

Please contact me – 305 995-5300 or send me an email – jwalker@cruiselaw.com

We need your help . . .  thanks!  Jim Walker 

Lizmarie Perez ChaparroA 14 year Carnival cruise passenger was shot and killed today after arriving in St. Thomas aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship.  Lizmarie Perez Chaparro was riding in a "safari bus" with her family when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout.

According to the AP, the young girl and her family had sailed from San Juan on Sunday. Another cruise ship passenger sustained a minor injury during the shootout. Another person, not from the cruise ship, 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, was also shot and killed. Mr. Joseph was attending a funeral for another young man murdered last month. 

Governor de Jongh issued a statement indicating that the deaths were caused by gangs waging "street justice" to settle their differences.

The tourist bus was hit by gunfire on its way to Coki Point Beach. Although this is a destination advertised by the cruise lines for snorkeling and scuba, Carnival denies that this was a Carnival excursion.

Carnival Victory - St. Thomas - Murder - Lizmarie Perez Chapparro

St. Thomas has been a hot spot for crime, including violent crimes against tourists for many years. Cruise lines face liability for subjecting their guests to harm and not warning them of the risk of such violence. 

There is a local blog by the Big Kahuna discussing the tragedy and the problem with crime on the island. The blog mentions that the astronomical murder rate is 42 this year in a population of only 100,000.  One of the readers left this comment:  "This morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Carnival Victory sail into port this morning. Unknowingly,that ship was bringing a little innocent girl here to be murdered. That’s difficult to grasp, it’s haunting . . ."

Carnival PR person Jennifer De La Cruz said Carnival suspended all excursions to the beach. The Carnival PR people crafted a statement that the incident was "unfathomable" and the Captain of the cruise ship used the word "shocked."  These are code words for "not foreseeable," meaning the cruise line is denying that it is responsible for sailing its guests into a port with high crime and street violence.   

A wanted poster of the suspect is in the St. Thomas Source.  This newspaper also has an excellent article about crime in the Caribbean: "Drugs, Gangs and Guns Fueling Caribbean-Wide Crime Surge."

A letter to the passengers signed by Captain Salvatore Messina is below.

   

Lizmarie Perez Chapparro - Carnival Cruise - St. Thomas Passenger Death - Crime

 

June 13, 2010 Update:  The El Nuevo Dia newspaper in Puerto Rico is reporting that Ms. Chaparro’s family was cruising to celebrate her upcoming quinceanera and her parents’ wedding anniversary.  The cruise line PR people and the tourism officials are in overdrive, announcing that the murder is "isolated" and the islands remain a "safe destination for tourists."

June 15, 2010 Update: The popular USA TODAY Cruise Log has a blog: "Shooting death of cruiser in Virgin Islands comes as killings there soar." 

June 16, 2010 Update:  Virgin Islands Daily News has an article "Cruise lines warn passengers about Coki Point shooting," discussing how many cruise lines are warning p[assengers about crime in St. Thomas and suspending excursions to the Coki beach area.  Cruise Critic has an interesting article "Who’s Responsible for Warning Cruise Travelers About Dangers in Port?"

June 18, 2010 Update:  "Heartache wrenches those who knew slain girl."

Were you on the cruise?  What are your thoughts about crime in St. Thomas and in other  Caribbean ports of call? Please leave a comment below . . .

We have written a number of articles about the high crime rate in the Caribbean ports of call in prior articles:   

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers  

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas 

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

 

Credit: 

Photo    Lizmarie Perez Chaparro     Javier Rivera / END via El Nuevo Dia

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship         bajan.wordpress.com

Photo Carnival letter   alexbrown96’s tweetphoto   via  St. Thomas Blog by the Big Kahuna