international cruise victims

Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian’s clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We’ve learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we’ve been through. We don’t know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don’t know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk’s forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that’s a bullshit case; we’re going to have it dismissed

I’ll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers’ smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian’s disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn’t stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn’t the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I’ll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith’s wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn’t know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go – as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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Don’t Join Our Organization This Summer, by Kendall Carver

More than 10 million Americans will set sail on a cruise vacation in 2016. Many of these travelers will book their trips through U.S.-based travel companies—expecting not only top-notch service, but also safety and accountability in the event of an emergency.

Yet American travelers aren’t guaranteed either: The cruise industry routinely circumvents basic safety Merrian  Carver - International Cruise Victimsprocedures for expediency’s sake, prioritizing profits over people.

I know firsthand. My daughter, Merrian, disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2004, yet cruise officials acted like nothing had happened. Merrian’s steward aboard the vessel reported her missing for five days to his supervisor, but was told to “just do your job and forget it.”

That’s right: Royal Caribbean made no attempt to contact either the authorities or Merrian’s family when she turned up missing and had not used her room. Once the cruise line was contacted about Merrian’s disappearance, it took Royal Caribbean three days to confirm that she had even been on the cruise first place. Confirming that Merriam didn’t use her room after the second night onboard took even longer. By then, the trail had gone cold. Requests for interviews by the private investigator hired by our family, were denied, as was access to the ship’s video camera system. Cruise officials even limited the amount of time that he could spend on the ship.

Our persistence in the face of negligence revealed a shocking detail: My daughter had been reported missing daily for the last five days of the cruise and nothing was done to search for her. More than a decade later, I still do not know how she died.

Unfortunately, my tragic story is not uncommon. The family of Larry and Christy Hammer—two Americans who lost their lives aboard the Amazon River boat Estrella Amazonica in April—are similarly grasping for answers. Theirs is the most recent demonstration of the cruise industry’s shocking disregard for passengers.

According to reports provided to us by the family, the Hammers were killed by a fire in their cabin. There were smoke detectors but no alarms in the cabins onboard the Estrella Amazonica—a boat proudly designed, built, and co-owned by the U.S.-based travel company International Expeditions Larry and Christy Hammer - International Expeditions (IE), according to the firm’s website. With no alarm to awaken them, the Hammers were overwhelmed as they struggled through the poisonous gases flooding their room. It took the crew more than 20 minutes to extract the Hammers from their burning cabin.

Similar to my family’s quest for answers, the Hammer family has resorted to independent investigators. The likely fire source was a power strip supplied by the boat—which lacked both surge protection and safety and flammability ratings. The fire alarm system and crew’s response to the emergency is also in question.

International Expeditions continues to deny the Hammer family’s pleas for information. Immediately following the incident, Van Perry, IE’s president, rushed to Peru to monitor the ship inspection. Within three days, he declared the ship “cleared as safe for travel” and personally re-boarded passengers onto the boat. When the Hammer family asked Mr. Perry for the supporting basis of his statements, he deflected and refused to provide information. Through interviews with independent investigators, the Hammer family was shocked to later learn that local authorities denied clearing the vessel as safe or having identified the source of the fire.

American travelers who put their trust in travel companies like Royal Caribbean and International Expeditions should tread carefully. Just because they’re based in the United States doesn’t ensure Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimspassenger safety or accountability when tragedy strikes.

To confront the cruise industry’s recurring problem of neglect and indifference, victims’ families organized the International Cruise Victims Association. Members’ tragic stories, posted to the organization’s website, attest to a devastating pattern.

My parting words are “be careful”—or else our organization becomes yours.

Kendall Carver is the chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association.

You can read about the Royal Caribbean cover up of Merrian Carver’s disappearance here

Photo Credit:

Merrian Carver (top) and Ken Carver – Ken Carver

Larry and Christy Hammer – Kelly Lankford & Jill Malott via KSHB
 

Washingtom DC Cruise Law NewsLast week we attended a reception at the Capital buillding in Washington D.C. with over 30 congressional offices in attendance, honoring the International Cruise Victim ("ICV")  organization.

The ICV was founded in January 2006 following the Congressional hearing in December 2005 regarding the disapperances of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury and the murder of George Smith III on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. 

In attendance at the reception were our friend and former client Laurie Dishman and her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was a co-sponsor of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety  Act.  Also in attendance were Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congressman Jim Hines (D-CT), from the Smith family’s home state. Senator Blumenthal was an original supporter of the pending Cruise Passenger Protection Act, He stressed the need for fair, accurate and accurate information regarding crimes on cruise ships.

Appearing at the reception were Georgia and Dean Ananias who barely escaped the sinking of the Costa Concordia with their two daughters in January 2012. Their remarkable story is on the ICV website. They wrote S.O.S. Spirit of Survival: One Family’s Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster. They survived physically but heard the screams and witnessed many crew members and passengers needlessly die. 

One mother talked about the sexual assault of her teenage daughter in which the FBI botched the investigation including not prosecuting the rapist and leaving the rape kit on the NCL cruise ship.  

Another family, the Ricci family, in attendance discussed the medical delay and neglience of Carnival cruise line which refused to send their daughter, Christina,  a young healthy woman,who hit her head and experienced strokes on the Victoriy, ashore to a medical trauma unit via a medevac helicopter resulting in her untimely death. 

The reception was moderated by ICV president Jamie Barnett who also lost her daughter, Ashley Barnett, aboard a Carnival cruise due to medical negligence.

ICV Chairman Ken Carver testified at a hearing regarding the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime entitled "Transportation.Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs." Mr. Carver addressed, among other issues, the cruise industry’s refusal to fully implement the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act with an effective date of January 2012 and the need to pass the Cruise Passenger Protection Act . You can read his testimony here.  

 Video credit: ABC News 7 Los Angeles via Jamie Barnett

You can see photographs of the reception here.

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https://youtube.com/watch?v=9M6baSuAz5s%3Frel%3D0

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization just announced that it is expanding in Europe.

The ICV is a grass root non-profit organization operated by victims of crimes and families who have lost loved ones at sea. The ICV and the families have been successful in the scheduling of 8 Congressional hearing in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding issues of cruise ship crime, fires, sinkings, and man overboard situations 

Here is the press release:    

"To better serve victims and friends in Europe, International Cruise Victims maintains a separate organization known as International Cruise Victims – UK. During the past several months this organization has gained more and more press and notoriety.

ICV-UK is headed by Captain Michael Lloyd (photo right). He is a well-known authority in the Maritime Captain Michael LloydIndustry, having written several books and major papers aimed at improving cruise industry safety standards. He serves on the Executive Committee of ICV and is Executive Vice President of ICV-UK.

His major presentations include a recent one on March 2nd given to high level maritime executives at the Wellington in London on the need for proper safety issues concerning THE ABANDONMENT OF LARGE PASSENGER VESSELS.  His most recent presentation is titled THE INVESTIGATION OF INCIDENTS AND CRIME AT SEA. In addition, he has authored major papers on the need to improve safety standards for victims on the High Seas.

ICV is also pleased to announce that Captain Colin Smith will be joining our organization as Vice President with ICV-UK and working with Captain Lloyd to support our efforts in the European arena. Colin, who has a Master’s degree in Human Rights at sea brings to ICV an additional professional background of having served in various positions in the shipping industry.

Colin will be working with and supporting victims as well as assisting Michael with efforts to create laws which would protect passengers and improve cruise industry safety standards. ICV, an Associate member of Victim Support – Europe, now has the talent and resources to move forward in the EU in support of victims and policies to improve the safety standards of the cruise line industry.

Ken Carver – Chairman; Telephone 602-852-5896

Jamie Barnett – President; Telephone 818-355-6462

Ken Carver Cruise VictimsKen Carver is the unlikeliest of people to become the founder of a grassroots victims’ organization. Mr. Carver is a conservative businessman and the past president of an insurance company in New York City. 

But in 2004, his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during a cruise she took to Alaska. No one should have to cope with the disappearance of their daughter on a cruise vacation, but Celebrity Cruises put Mr. Carver through living hell when he searched for answers. 

Celebrity learned that Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merriam, disappeared early during the cruise. But the cruise line did nothing. It didn’t notify the FBI or the Alaskan State Police. It didn’t preserve evidence or security video.  It disposed of Merriam’s clothing and personal items. It stonewalled Mr. Carver and lied to him.  Mr. Carver had to hire investigators and lawyers and spend $75,000 to try and find out what happened to his daughter. 

Mr. Carver attended his first Congressional hearing about the problem of passengers disappearing at sea in 2005. He has been involved in an additional seven Congressional hearings, in an effort to make cruising safer. He co-founded the International Cruise Victims organization in January 2006. 

Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting, install man overboard systems, and implement rape protocols and evidence handling procedures on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation.  But ultimately Mr. Carver won.

Congress recently passed a cruise safety law which requires cruise lines to publicly disclose all crimes on a new Department of Transportation website.  Mr. Carver was previously successful in having the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act passed into law. This law requires cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems on their ships. 

Over the past decade, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives come and go – cruise presidents, PR crisis managers, and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing, and cruising is safer because of him. 

If you have a comment, please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Video Credit:  Local 3 Phoenix AZ Family 

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization formed in 2006 in response to the problem with crime and unsolved disappearance of passengers and crew members on cruise ships around the world.  ICV CEO Ken Carver’s daughter disappeared on a Celebrity cruise ship which the cruise line covered up. ICV President Jamie Barnett’s daughter died due to medical negligence. Other members of the ICV consist of women sexually assaulted and families who lost loved ones at sea.

The ICV was desperately needed because there is no federal oversight of the foreign flagged and foreign incorporated cruise industry.  As Senator Rockefeller said to the cruise lines last year "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."      

The ICV membership has increased substantially over the years with members literally around the world.

Recently, Jay Leno mentioned the ICV during his monologue with the audience responding with applause. 

 

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=n33032

Merrian Carver Cruise Ship Cover UpCoast to Coast Radio has a rather fascinating interview with Ken Carver, the Chairman of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization.

Mr. Carver talks about "odd and mysterious disappearances on-board cruise ships and how the industry stonewalls investigations of crimes on the high seas. He recalled how his daughter, Merrian, disappeared from a cruise in August of 2004, which led him on a quest to find out what happened to her. Carver detailed how the cruise ship company forbid its employees from discussing the case with his investigators and repeatedly lied about video tape evidence which would have shed light on Merrian’s fate. Based on his research, Carver revealed that Merrian’s story is not unique and that once every two weeks someone disappears from a cruise ship.

Carver also shared a number of other troubling details about the cruise ship industry, such as that they “take the legal position that they are under no obligation to investigate a crime,” whether it be a disappearance, sexual assault, or robbery. Additionally, the companies and their ships are registered in Ken Carver International Cruise Victimsforeign countries, which makes criminal investigations the responsibility of those host nations and allows for the companies to avoid paying any U.S. taxes despite utilizing up to 21 different American government agencies.

Furthermore, Carver lamented that many former high ranking FBI and Coast Guard officials later find employment with cruise ship companies and, thus, those agencies frequently work against efforts to hold the industry accountable for these crimes."

Take a minute and listen to this information.

Mr. Carver discusses how the Miami-based cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises lied and stonewalled to cover-up the disappearance of his daughter.

The website of the ICV is here.

The interview starts at 1:19:35.

  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=oHbwJ-ZE3JM%3Frel%3D0

 

Ken Carver - International Cruise VictimsFormer insurance company president, Ken Carver, discusses the disappearance of his daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Cruises ship, the Mercury, and the lies and cover-up by the cruise line which followed.

Ken is the founder and the CEO of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) which he formed in 2006 with a few other families who had lost loved ones at sea.  

The ICV is now truly an international organization with members in twenty-four countries around the world.

You can read about Ken and the remarkable story of the ICV here.

The audio can be listened to here.     

The recent articles about the FBI assisting the cruise lines in covering up ship crimes has sparked a re-newed interest in the safety of cruise passengers on the high seas.

Fox News published an article this morning "How Safe Is Your Cruise Ship" mentioning the cruise lines’ talking points that cruise ship crime is "extremely rare."  For a different point of view, Fox News interviewed cruise expert Ross Klein who has testified before Congress that a cruise passenger "is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land."

Fox News also mentioned our law firm’s experiences representing cruise sexual assault victims, including children.

The debate whether cruise ship crime today is "rare" or "routine" consists essentially of opinions without a quantitative foundation because the FBI is hiding the actual crime statistics from the public, as Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Organization discusses in the video below.

It should be up to the public, not a corporation with a conflict of interest, to determine exactly what is "rare" or "routine" based on the actual crimes statistics which are currently being hidden. .

 

Fariba Amani - Missing - Cruise Ship DisappearanceA newspaper in Canada published a couple of interesting articles this weekend about a story that won’t go away – the disappearance of passengers and crewmembers from cruise ships.

The Star newspaper published Families Search for Cruise Ship Passengers Lost at Sea which discusses the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of Canadian citizen Fariba Amani who vanished from the Celebration cruise ship as it was returning to Florida from the Bahamas.  Ms. Amani was cruising with her boyfriend, in what is described as a difficult relationship, who could offer no explanation for his girlfriend’s disappearance at sea in the middle of the night.

The article also mentions the plight of Son Michael Pham, from Seattle, whose parents disappeared from a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. Hue Pham, 71, and his wife, Hue Tran, 67, had been married 49 years and were with their daughter and granddaughter when they disappeared from the Carnival Cruise Line ship Destiny in 2005.

The article also touches upon the story of a woman, Arlene Pretty, who was drugged during a cruise aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship.  By the time she returned to her cabin, she was staggering. Within minutes her legs went numb and she couldn’t breathe. She was rushed to sick bay, where she was stabilized and where blood and urine samples were taken from her.

“The FBI refused on two requests to take the blood and urine samples and have them tested,” she says. “My samples are still on the ship, going to the Caribbean every 14 days, or they probably just got rid of them . . .   What happened to me was absolute hell,” says Pretty, who has been on 19 cruises. “I thought I was going to die."

Merrian Carver - Missing - Cruise Ship DisappearanceThe Star newspaper also published another article The Mystery Surrounding Two Cruise Ship Deaths

Merrian Carver disappeared while cruising on the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. "Security on board these vessels is severely lacking," Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims, is quoted as saying. His daughter, Merrian, went missing on a cruise ship sailing from Vancouver to Alaska in 2004, when she was 40.  Celebrity thereafter engaged in a cover up of the disappearance.

The other disappearance mentioned in the article involved George Smith, who vanished from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Sea cruise ship in the Mediterranean in July 2005.  The Smith family and their counsel in Connecticut are continuing to search for answers.

All of the stories contain common themes –  indifference of the FBI, lack of cooperation by the cruise lines and families who continue to search for answers against all odds.