A pastor from North Las Vegas was killed on Monday, July 30th in a canoe excursion accident during a cruise to Alaska, according to several news sources.

50-year-old Steven Todd Willis and his wife were reportedly on a cruise to Alaska celebrating the first anniversary of their marriage.

The news accounts state that an excursion company was taking, what has been reported to be, between nine and eleven passengers on a canoe tour when their canoe overturned in rapids.  Four people were reportedly missing.

The incident occurred nine miles south of Haines. The first news account states that the canoe was being used for a guided tour for passengers from three different unidentified cruise ships.

One news account reports that one of the passengers was unresponsive at the scene. First responders reportedly performed CPR, but the passenger remained unconscious. Another account states that the passenger had sunk in deep water and could not be retrieved.

A third account states that the Coast Guard dispatched a Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka to search for the missing members of the tout.  A Coast Guard crew reportedly pulled the body of  Mr. Willis from the Davidson Glacier River, according to KTNV News.

KTNV states that “everyone on board wore life jackets.”

The owner of the excursion company, identified as AlaskaX Excursions, told the Skagway News that he has been cooperating with the authorities involved and will be conducting an investigation into the fatality.

KHNS FM reports that this excursion company “employs about 20 people year-round and 150 seasonal guides, running five tours around Haines, Skagway, and Juneau. That includes a canoe tour at Glacier Point, where they boat up to 15,000 cruise passengers each summer from Skagway to where the Davidson Glacier calves into a lake.”

KHNS further states that, according to an Alaska assembly member,  “there have been specific, and credible, and very damning accounts” of the excursion company’s poor safety record, reportedly referring to a dozen former employees who have lodged complaints about the company’s operations.  “They say the company prioritizes profit over the safety of employees and guests.”

The news articles do not state which cruise ship Mr. Willis and his wife had taken to Alaska.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read:

One Dead, 10 Safe After Canoe Overturns Near Haines via Juneau Empire.

Safety Complaints From Former Employees Pile Up Against Skagway Tour Company. via KHNS FM.

 

 

This morning I received a message from a passenger on the Coral Princess that the Princess Cruises cruise ship picked up 7 Cuban migrants in a small make-shift boat.  

The photo sent to me showed what appeared to be at least one man in distress lying on his back near the bow of the boat. 

Here’s the message which I received:

"Coral princess just rescued 7 cubans on a damaged small boat off the coast of cuba…we are on our way back to FL with 7 cubans on board."

Usually cruise ships which take Cuban migrants aboard deliver them to a Coast Guard vessel and the migrants are returned to Cuba.

Cuban Migrants

 Multiple news sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise ship spotted a boat packed with dozens of Cuban migrants in the Florida Straits Tuesday night. 

The Coast Guard says the Carnival Ecstasy spotted the migrants’ vessel Tuesday evening. Officials say the small boat wasn’t seaworthy and lacked lifejackets and navigation equipment. I think that goes without saying when Cubans or others from Caribbean islands take to sea in rafts or make-shift boats.

The Ecstasy stopped and took 41 Cubans aboard. Carnival then transferred the Cubans to the Coast Guard for return to Cuba.  Under the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who make it to U.S. soil are allowed to stay in the U.S., but Cubans stopped at sea are returned back to Cuba. home.

Carnival Cruise Lines Rescues Cubans at SeaWe have mentioned many stories like this over the years. Usually there is great excitement by the cruise passengers that they were involved in the "rescue" of people at sea. Yes, the Cuban people were rescued from the sea but they are returned to Castro’s Cuban and the conditions which caused them to risk their lives. 

Last week we commented on this issue in an article entitled Cubans "Trying for the American Dream" End With An Empty Boat. In that case, Carnival intercepted 24 Cubans who were escorted by the Coast Guard back to Cuba. 

I wonder whether any of the 41 Cubans picked up by the Carnival Ecstasy Tuesday night had tried to cross again after being picked up last week? 

 

Photo Credit: AP / Local 10 news

Cruise Ships Rescue Cuban ImmigrantsThe U.S. Coast Guard is reporting that yesterday two cruise ships responded to migrants at sea in two separate incidents. A Coast Guard representative characterized the migrants as floating in two "rustic vessels" south of Key West Florida.

The cruise ships involved are the Disney Wonder home ported in Miami, and the Carnival Conquest which is based in New Orleans. 

Carnival stated that the Conquest picked up 13 Cuban nationals about 40 miles from Key West. (The photo released by Carnival shows men aboard what appears to be a yellow rubber boat around 18′). The Carnival cruise ship then rendezvoused with a Coast Guard cutter near Key West to transfer the Cubans to the custody of the U.S.  

Disney stated that the Wonder picked up eight people about 45 miles from Key West, but did not disclose their nationality.  You can see photos of the boat of Cubans here.

Cuban Rafters - Cruise Ship RescueThe migrants were reportedly half way between Havana and Key West when they were stopped. 

Numerous media accounts are suggesting that it is currently unknown what would be done with the migrants, but that’s nonsense. In all cases I have seen where cruise ships picked up Cubans on the high seas the Coast Guard sends them back to Cuba. 

Carnival has been under criticism for relying on the Coast Guard when its ships catch on fire and are disabled at sea but it does not reimburse the federal government, The cruise line took advantage of the event to try and get some good press. Its President Gerry Cahill stated in a press release:

“We are happy to have come to the aid of these individuals and to support the long-established tradition among the global maritime community of providing assistance to mariners in distress.” 

I’m not too sure that the Cuban refugees will be too "happy" when they end up in a jail courtesy of Castro’s Cuba. 

Leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook: Is this a "rescue" or an "interception?"

Cuban Rafters - Cruise Ship Rescue

 

 

Photo Credit:

Migrants in boat: Carnival via WWL TV

Chart: Daily Mail

This evening my twitter feed came alive with a number of fascinating tweets by passengers sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas as it sailed between Florida and Cuba.

The passengers, Jason Cochran, whose Twitter name is @Bastable and has a cool website, and "Nomadic Matt" (I could not figure out his real name) who Twitter name is @nomadicmatt and who has a neat travel website, tweeted about their cruise ship sailing across something strange – 18 refugees in a raft.

Actually encountering rafters on the high seas is not particularly strange at all.

I have blogged a lot about cruise ships "rescuing" Cuban refugees. (Just click on the "Rescue" Oasis of the Seas - Bastable - Cuban Refugeescategory to the left to read a couple of articles.) For some strange reason, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are most likely to sail upon rafters trying to escape the oppressive regime in Cuba. Why Royal Caribbean?  I have no idea.  Most of the clueless cruisers think that the rafters are "saved" and about to be invited into the U.S. 

The problem is that the Cubans are never "rescued." The cruise line usually takes them on the ship, calls the U.S. Coast Guard who sails out to the scene, and the Coast Guard processes the refugees and sails them back to Cuba where they end up in Castro’s jails.

But today was different.  The tweeters explained that the crew of the Oasis brought food and water to the refugees, but the refugees didn’t want to be "rescued."  They knew the U.S. Coast Guard would arrive and they wanted to leave.

There are some people who understand this perfectly well – ‏@shaneyhudson – a travel writer from Australia, tweeted "Coast guard would rather them drown than let them touch US shore. Will tow them back." He’s right. Its rare to hear someone more bitter than me about these type of things.  

Bastable tweeted: "The Oasis‬ is now leaving the raft behind, slowly turning east. No Coast Guard cutter yet. Goodbye. We hope things turn out for you."   

I agree Bastable,  A tragic tale, indeed.    

Let’s hope the winds and currents and the grace of God bring the refugees ashore tonight and they plant their feet on U.S. soil and can begin free lives here in America.

 

Photo credit:  Bastable

WSVN News 7 in Miami reports tonight that Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas cruise ship sent a lifeboat to pick up five Cuban refugees who were floating in a raft after escaping Cuba. 

A cruise passenger sent Channel 7 a video of the "rescue" operation.  A cruise passenger was quoted saying  "I was kinda hoping that if they were brave enough to make it out to see from Cuba that they’d have a chance to stay here but who knows?"

I have a love / hate feeling about these situations.

Yes, its great that the cruise lines "rescued" Cubans on the high seas in rafts.  No one wants to see another situation where a Princess cruise ship callously sailed by three Panamanian young men in a disabled little fishing boat 100 miles out to sea, causing two men to die.

But on the other hand, there is no question that the Cubans will be sent back to Cuba, where they will meet whatever fate Castro’s regime decides to impose.

I have written a dozen articles like this.  It seems like Royal Caribbean cruise ships for some odd reason are usually involved. Take a look here, hereherehere and here. The Allure and its sister ship, Oasis, have had multiple "rescues."

But there is no "rescue."  It is in essence an interception.  Current U.S. immigration policy is that if Cubans make it ashore they get to stay here. Good for them I say.  But if they are caught on the high seas, they go back to Cuba. Period. 

These brave Cubans will not die at sea, but they may now die in a Cuban jail for seeking freedom.