The disappearance of a 47 year-old woman last week from P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn was one of 213 people overboard from cruise ships in the last decade and one of 7 disappearances in less than 4 months this year alone. The incident raises the fundamental issue whether it is, in fact, possible for someone to fall off a cruise ship. 

I have written about nearly 200 overboard incidents since I started this blog eight and a-half years ago.  The single most common comment which I hear is that it’s impossible for someone to fall off of a cruise ship. When I reported on the recent overboard incident on the Pacific Dawn, the first comment was passengers don’t just fall off of a cruise ship.

But based on some of the eye-witness accounts, that is exactly what might have happened on the Pacific Dawn. 

The 47-year-old passenger from Brisbane, Australia, was reportedly with her husband on an exterior Pacific Dawn Overboarddeck, about 15 feet away from where other passengers were playing table tennis inside the cruise ship. Several passengers said the woman "went outside to vomit as she was seasick," according to an Australian newspaper the Courier Mail.

One eye-witness told the Courier Mail that the woman began to vomit while leaning over a railing when she lost her footing and went overboard.

Another passenger, who expressed condolences to the family of the woman, posted a somber photograph (right) of an empty deck and the railing where the woman apparently went overboard. The low railings immediately caught my eye. 

A standard sized life-ring, which you can see mounted slightly above the deck, is only 28-30 inches in diameter, which suggests that the top of the top of railing is probably no more than a total of 40 to 42 inches in height. 

One of the eye-witnesses took a photograph of the railing (below right) which was published in several newspapers. The photo shows four crew members standing around the deck railing. Two of the crew members are leaning on the railing with one crew member is standing in the middle nearby the railing, which appears to barely come to the crew members’ waists and the middle crew member’s hips.

Several years ago, when I attended a series of Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. on proposed legislation to require the cruise lines to raise the height of railing on their ships, the cruise lines refused to consider raising their ships’ railings Pacific Dawn Overboardto more than 42 inches.

The cruise industry has known for years that passengers who have puked (due to being either sick or intoxicated) over the railings on cruise ships sometimes have fallen overboard in the process. Yet, the cruise lines consistently resisted agreeing to higher railings. They felt that a higher raising would have been too expensive to retrofit on their fleet of ships.

Eventually, when the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) was finally passed into law in 2010 in the U.S., the cruise industry successfully had lobbied for the lower (42 inch) provision.

Before the Pacific Dawn even finished its cruise following the woman’s disappearance, news reports announced that P&O Cruises already intended to argue that the woman intentionally went overboard. MSN reported that although "early reports suggested the woman was suffering from sea sickness and had been vomiting over the side," a representative for P&O said "there was nothing to suggest anything of this kind" despite the fact that there were high waves and strong winds at the time. Another newspaper reported that: "9NEWS understands cruise liner P&O will claim its early investigation has concluded that ‘it appears the missing person has jumped with the husband attempting to catch her unsuccessfully.’"  9News reported that a ship’s security camera footage allegedly showed the passenger "deliberately launching herself over the side" of the ship, according to P&O.

By the time that the ship had returned to Brisbane, the cruise line had already revealed the woman’s name to the press and implied that she may have committed suicide. 

It’s troubling to see a cruise line dispute eye-witness accounts, state that it intends to prove the passenger intentionally went overboard even before law enforcement boards the ship, and then reveal the name of the victim to the media.

Police "investigators" have apparently now reviewed the surveillance film and agreed with P&O’s pre-determined conclusions. But notably absent in the media statements, from either the police or the cruise line, is there any mention that the video shows the woman climbing up on the railings. 

Whatever occurred on the Pacific Dawn, this would not be the first time that a cruise line may have falsely reported that an overboard passenger committed suicide.

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We suggest reading: "Suicide" – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Photograph credit: Top – Twitter via hashhag @vviivviieennnne and Fox News; bottom – Channel 10/Twitter via Courier Mail and Associated Newspapers Limited via MSN.com

ABC News in Australia reports that a woman has gone overboard from the P&O Pacific Dawn today. The cruise ship left Brisbane, Australia last weekend on a cruise of the Pacific Islands.

The P&O ship is now conducting a search for the missing guest.

P&O released a statement today stating that a crew member observed the unidentified woman going overboard from the ship around 4 P.M. today (April 12, 2018).  The incident reportedly occurred when Overboard Pacific Dawnthe Pacific Dawn was approximately 300 kilometers west of New Caledonia.

The crew member apparently notified the bridge and the ship turned to conduct a search. Other vessels in the vicinity assisted in the search.

A spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said that the ship faced three-to-four-meter swells and high winds (55 kph winds).

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, at least 308 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

According to the Herald Sun, a passenger on the cruise ship posted a photograph of a life ring in the water about an hour after the ship began its search, stating that the passenger had not yet been located although it was getting dark at the time.

“Horrendous here on ship. Man over board an hour ago. Ship going round and round searching.” pic.twitter.com/jpC0NGRomU — Jonathan Trevithick (@JonTrevithick) April 12, 2018

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April 12, 2018 P.M.Update: New details emerge regarding the passenger reported overboard from the Pacific Dawn earlier this morning – From news.com.au: “A cruise ship passenger who was lost at sea had gone onto the deck because she felt sick and was knocked overboard by a freak wave.”

P&O Arcadia CocaineNewspapers in the U.K. are reporting that a cruise ship passenger, who used a cruise in the Caribbean last fall as a cover to smuggle cocaine, has been jailed.

The cruise in question occurred last October (of 2017) and apparently involved the P&O Arcadia.

BBC News reports that a 55 year old British citizen was arrested "as he disembarked a cruise liner at Southampton Docks." According to the the newspaper, approximately three kilos of cocaine was found in his suitcases (photo left). The cocaine reportedly was worth more than £200,000. 

The article does not mention the name of the cruise ship or cruise line but the only cruise ship which had returned from a cruise to the Caribbean (including Castries, St. Lucia) in port in Southampton at the end of October of 2017 was P&O’s Arcadia.

St. Lucia Southampton Cocaine Smuggle CruiseThe passenger was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison, following a trial at Southampton Crown Court. The National Crime Agency (NCA) reportedly said that the passenger claimed "the cruise had been paid for following a win on the horses, and that he had innocently purchased the suitcases."

The NCA proved that the passenger collected the suitcases in Castries, St Lucia, and that he had been in contact with others suspected of involvement in the importation. A  NCA officer reportedly stated that "our investigation involved liaison with law enforcement partners in the Caribbean, and through that, we were able to prove that (his) story was made up . . . it became clear that he had contacts with others involved in drug trafficking on both sides of the Atlantic."

This is not the first time that a passenger aboard the Acadia was arrested for smuggling cocaine from St. Lucia into the U.K. Nine years ago four passengers aboard the Arcadia were arrested (and later convicted and sentenced to jail for 12 years each) for attempting to smuggle nearly 20 kilos of cocaine P&O Cruise Smuggling Cocaine Arcadiawith an estimated street value of £1.75 million into the port of Southampton, according to the BBC. The drugs had been picked up at the port in Castries. 

Each of the passengers reportedly had been caught smuggling the cocaine taped to their bodies (photo right).

Passengers on the P&O Aurora were busted with large quantities of cocaine in separate incidents in January and February of 2012. The passengers were caught smuggling over 40 kilos of cocaine.  

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Photo credit: NCA via BBC.

M/S ArcadiaA passenger aboard the P&O Arcadia reports today via the P&O Cruises’ Facebook page that a lifeboat has broken from its cabling and has fallen from its davits into the sea while the cruise ship was in Ponta Delgada, Azores.

The passenger (who wishes to remain anonymous) states that "the back appears to have been ripped off and is still hanging from its cradle……" 

He posted two photographs on his Facebook comments to the private page (which he gave permission to post them here). One photograph (bottom) shows the lifeboat being removed from the water and the other photo shows the lifeboat lying damaged on the quayside at the port (middle0. 

There reportedly were five crew members in the lifeboat at the time of the accident. One crew member’s injuries are apparently serious enough for the ship employee to be hospitalized.

There have been a number of serious accident involving lifeboats drills during cruises over the years. Virtually all of the accidents involved crew members who were in the lifeboats when they were being lowered or raised during drills.

Last year a lifeboat broke free from the Grandeur of the Seas was in the the port of Charleston, South Carolina. No one was in the lifeboat when it fell into the water.

In September of 2016, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship’s navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water.

Several years ago, the trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced that Arcadia Lifeboat Accidentcruise lines were prohibited by the MLO from raising or lowering lifeboats with crew members aboard. Many cruise lines have ignored this safety rule.

Eight crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill in 2013 on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed and 3 were injured.

In July of 2016, a rescue boat drill resulted in the boat falling into the water with four crew members from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was in Bermuda. Two crew members were killed and two other seriously injured.

Between these two events, there have been several other lifeboat mishaps. In January of 2016, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.

Word from the passengers on the Arcadia reportedly is that the ship has already left port to continue on with its planned itinerary. 

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January 12, 2018 Update: UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) demands urgent action over lifeboat safety.

Photo credit: Top – M/S Arcadia –  Politikaner – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; middle and bottom – anonymous.

Arcadia Lifeboat Accident

AuroraA fire reportedly broke out in the engine room of the Aurora this morning, causing the P&O cruise ship to lose its electricity and its propulsion. 

The fire was extinguished after approximately an hour, following which emergency generators were eventually started.

At the time of the fire, the Aurora was in the mid-Atlantic sailing for the Azores. 

There has been no official statement from the cruise line; the details of the fire are admittedly sketchy. There are a few comments about the fire on the Cruise Critic message board

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September 21, 2017 Update: P&O Cruises released a statement: 

"Aurora suffered a temporary power failure yesterday which is being investigated. All guests and crew are safe and the ship immediately ran on back up generators. All services are running as normal on board.

Aurora is on a 30 night North America & Canada which departed Southampton on August 27, 2017 and is currently en route to the Azores. The ship is due to return to Southampton on September 26, 2017. The onward itinerary is unaffected."

Photo credit: MacdonaldAndy – CC BY 4.0; commons / wikimedia.

CLIA - Stewards of the Maritime Environment?On the recent #WorldOceansDay which trended on Twitter this week, the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and CLIA travel agents tweeted photos of pristine aqua-colored waters and a beautiful healthy reef in what appears to be an idyllic location somewhere in the Pacific.  

They posted tweets claiming to be "stewards of the environment."   

Well that is certainly open to debate. It seems to me that the cruise industry is nothing short of a menace to the ocean, air and reefs where it sails.

This is an industry which has historically treated the oceans as a dumping ground for human waste and garbage generated by its passengers. The dumping has continued to this day as MSC demonstrated two years ago when it was MSC Dumping Plastic Bagscaught dumping plastic bags into a marine sanctuary.

According to the Friends of the Earth (FOE) environmental group, "an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than one billion gallons a year for the industry, a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,800 passengers and crew. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much "graywater" from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality."

Consider what Royal Caribbean did to the ancient reefs around the port of Falmouth. In order to squeeze its gigantic. bunker-fuel-belching Allure and Oasis of the Seas into the tiny Jamaican port, it oversaw the obliteration of millions of cubic feet of ancient living coral which it pulverized and then dumped on acres of old mangroves (photo below). A reader sent me a Google Map showing the destruction of the barrier reef and the mangroves.

A large portion of the beautiful reefs in the Caymans (often damaged by cruise ship anchors and chains, photo below) are slated for destruction as another cruise-industry-beholden leader of a tourism-dependent-Caribbean island plans to dredge and fill to build a huge, monolithic concrete cruise pier in George Town harbor to try and accommodate the increasingly over-sized Miami-based monster cruise ships.

The cruise industry’s assault on the maritime environment is not limited to the powerless and poor Caribbean islands.  The cruise industry has literally targeted the far corners of the world.  In Cruise Ship Pollution: Cruise Sewage And Air Pollution A Rising Concern As Ships Sail Toward Northwest Falmouth JamaicaPassage, the International Business Times (IBT) reports that the cruise industry plans to try and send cruise ships through the Northwest Passage, a route newly opened by melting Arctic ice, even though "the colossal vessels may also bring sooty diesel emissions and swimming pools of sewage into a long-pristine environment."  

So which cruise line will be taking what the Daily Beast calls the "titanic risk" into the Arctic? It’s the notoriously polluter, Crystal Cruises, which will be heading to the Arctic in August. It sold out a cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity in just three weeks. Approximately 1,000 passengers are paying about $22,000 each (excluding extras such as a $4,000 helicopter ride or a three-day, $6,000 excursion exploring a glacier) according to the Wall Street Journal.  From an environmental perspective, Crystal Cruises is considered by environmentalists as the "worst of the worse." It is one of four cruise lines to be given an "F" this year from the Friends of the Earth which issued its environmental report card yesterday. I suppose it is only fitting that such a cruise line would be the first cruise line to tear through the Arctic; if it can collect a minimum of $22,000,000 in cruise fares from one cruise into the virgin, pristine area, what else is important?  It is always about the money, right?   

Crystal Cruises will be forever known to environmentalists as the cruise line whose Crystal Harmony dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn’t have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, Carnival Cruise Line Crushes Coral Reef in Caymanssaid Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

"We didn’t break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

In the 2010 Green Report Card by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Crystal Cruises received the lowest grade, "F." Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded with hubris, saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A … if not an A+."

FOE’s latest environmental report card is below. The usual suspects, Crystal, Costa, MSC and P&O Cruises, have again received "F’s." All of the other lines, except Disney Cruises which received an "A-," received a "C" or "D."  

CLIA reacted to the bad grades of its cruise members like it always does, by attacking FOE.  The "dirty industry," as FOE rightfully calls it, defended itself like any carbon-based industry does when scrutinized by an environmental group concerned with global warming and the obvious degradation of the environment. The cruise industry scoffs at the FOE but the truth is that the industry can do much, much better. Kudos to Disney which again has led the way in sewage treatment and water compliance while demonstrating transparency in the process.

Photo Credit:

CLIA Cruise Forward PR Photo: Cruise Line International Association

Don Foster’s Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Friends of the Earth Report Card – Friends of the Earth 

Friends of the Earth Report Card  

In November of 2015, a 78 year old passenger from South Korea drowned in a swimming pool on P&O Australia’s Pacific Dawn cruise ship that did not have a lifeguard.  The cruise ship was sailing from Brisbane, Australia to New Guinea.

The ship’s un-monitored closed circuit television recording showed the passenger enter the adult-only lifeguard-less swimming pool around 10:37 A.M. and swim around.  At 10:51 A.M., another cruise passenger in the pool noticed that he was lying on the bottom of the pool and began to shout for help Pacific Dawn Drowning Report - MAIBone minute later. A security employee happened to see the bystander waving his arms and ran down to the pool. The drowned passenger was removed from the pool  and another security personnel called the bridge and the emergency telephone number. At 10:55 the bridge team made a tannoy announcement and summoned the medical department. Other passengers began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.    

The ship’s medical team (consisting of two doctors and three nurses) arrived promptly once summoned at 10:57 A.M. and administered treatment including the use of an external defibrillator. At 11:20 A.M., the senior doctor declared the passenger to be deceased.  

A subsequent autopsy found some signs of artery disease but concluded that the primary cause of death was drowning.  

Because the P&O ship was flagged in the U.K., the death was investigated by the U.K.’s Marine Investigation Branch (MAIB) which has done excellent work in other cruise drowning cases like the  passenger drowning case on the Princess Sapphire Princess last year. The MAIB concluded in that case that "a lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the emergency response, and that risks relating to the use of the swimming pools by unsupervised passengers had not been formally assessed and documented." The MAIB recommended to Princess Cruises that it perform a "suitable and sufficient risk assessment" regarding the cruise ships’ swimming pools.

In this case involving the Pacific Dawn, the MAIB concluded that "constant poolside supervision by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool user safety." The cruise line also was required, but did not perform prior to the death, a risk assessment to determine whether pool supervision was necessary. 

Among other factors, the MAIB noted that "constant poolside supervision" is necessary when, among other factors:

  • the pool has water deeper than 1.5 m (the pool was deeper than this);
  • crowded conditions are expected;
  • food or alcohol will be available to pool users.

The MAIB noted that although the medical team’s response was swift once they were finally summoned, "if a dedicated pool attendant had been monitoring passengers in the pool, Mr Oh’s (the decedent’s) situation could have been identified and an emergency response initiated at the earliest possible opportunity." 

The MAIB also said that the frequency of near drownings in unsupervised swimming pools should be considered when conducting risk assessments "so that an appropriate level of pool supervision is maintained in all circumstances." Consistent with other reports, the MAIB said that "constant poolside supervision" is required whenever "the pool will be used by unaccompanied children aged under 15 years."

As we have discussed many times, there have been numerous drownings and near-drownings on NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the last several years. 

It’s a real shame that most Miami-based cruise lines which do not bother to hire lifeguards or conduct swimming pool risk assessments (because they usually flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama) are not subject to criticism from reputable authorities like the MAIB.

Photo credit: MAIB gov.uk 

Hat Tip: Safety4Sea

P&O OceanaA month ago, a crew member aboard the P&O Oceana notified me that the cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection by the enters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while the ship was in port in Charleston, South Carolina.  Oceana received a score of 82; 85 or lower is considered a failure.

I have been checking the CDC’s online inspection scores since then. I have been asking the CDC when it will release its report on the Oceana.

The report was finally released today. You can read the report here. The report indicated that several back-flow prevention devices, to prevent the contamination of potable water, did not have test results and appeared not to be tested. The ship’s Riviera swimming pool and Crystal whirlpool did not have adequate levels of chlorinated and bromine, failed to have hair and lint strainers / filters and were not disinfected. The inspector closed the recreational water facilities on the ship.

The report also revealed that a food handler had an onset of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) and exhibited symptoms at 9:00 A.M. in the morning but did did not report to the medical center until 11:20 A.M. A review of the crew member’s work history indicated that this crew member worked, notwithstanding his illness, from 7:30 A.M. until 10:30 A.M.

The ship’s galley appeared dirty. There were comments like “the tile grout in this area was soiled and in disrepair.”  “The deck below under counter refrigerator . . . had a significant buildup of more than a week’s accumulation of food debris, dirt, equipment parts, and what appeared to be insect remains.” Food service equipment was broken or out of service and many operational ovens and ice-makers were overflowing their drip pans and/or leaking onto the floor.

Oceana has not prepared a “corrective action report” in response to the failed score, as required by the CDC.

In an era when cruise lines are quick to blame every single norovirus outbreak on the passengers, this CDC report provides an insight into how deficient water sanitation and disgusting food handling practices by a cruise line can jeopardize the health of the traveling public.

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April 4, 2016 Update: The CDC vessel sanitation inspectors inspected the P&O Oriana in February.  Although the cruise ship passed with a score of 90, there were several significant sanitation problems including dirty and out of service galley equipment.  Also food handlers working while ill with gastrointeritis: “A Chef de Partie experienced onset of GI symptoms on 20 January 2016 at 6:45 am. This crew member worked from 7 am to 11 am, took lunch at the crew mess, then returned to work from 1 pm to 5 pm. The chef reported his symptoms to the medical center at 6 pm.”   You can read the report here.

April 5, 2016 Update:  Cruise Law News was quoted today in the Southampton’s Daily  Echo and the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

Fortune magazine also covered the story, writing that it “raises questions about the industry’s squeaky-clean image, and indeed, that there may be more unreported cases that were either ignored or dismissed by the sickened passengers or the cruise lines themselves.”

April 6, 2016 Update:  FoxNews covers the story today – Health inspectors find cockroaches, ‘potentially hazardous’ food aboard two luxury cruise ships.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) interjects the blame-the-passenger-wash-your-hands excuse but ignores the fact that crew members were handling food while contagious and the ship’s galley was found to be unsanitary and potentially hazardous to the guests’ health.

Photo credit: Piergiuliano Chesi, CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Ventura Cruise Ship Overboard PassengerLast night a reader of this blog sent me an AIS screen shot of the P&O Ventura sailing in circles south of the Isle of Wight in an apparent attempt to search for an overboard passenger.

This morning the British press is reporting that a passenger went overboard fron the Ventura around 04:30 BST as it was returning to Southampton. 

The cruise ship had left Southampton on September 27th on a cruise in the Mediterranean.

BBC reports that the P&O cruise ship retraced its route for several hours as part of an emergency search by sea and air for the unidentified passenger,

This is the 264th overboard case since 2000.  

March 17, 2016 Update: Man who jumped to his death from ship during birthday cruise told mum he was ‘going to heaven.’

The P & O Oriana has made it back safely to the Port of Miami last night after a fire broke out on the ship. 

Viewers following the PTZ / Port of Miami webcam heard radio communication between the ship and the Coast Guard that a fire had allegedly broken out on the ship involving the engine room. The Oriana requested tugs to assist it back to port in Miami after the fire was extinguished. 

AIS tracking systems shows the cruise ship leaving port (for Key West) and then turning around shortly after leaving the port. 

No further information is available at this time.  I have requested information from P&O Cruises but have not received anything. 

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April 19, 2015 Update: Oriana left the Port of Miami this morning around 8:20 AM. Seatrade quotes an unidentified cruise spokeswoman issuing a bland statement that the incident involved a "minor, localized fire which was swiftly extinguished and at no time affected the safety of passengers or crew."   I have never heard a cruise spokesperson ever describing a cruise ship fire as anything other than "small" and "quickly extinguished."

Of course there is nothing "small" about a fire at sea.

 

Video Credit: @PTZtv 

 

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