According to WRLN in Miami, FEMA grossly overpaid Carnival Cruise Line to charter the Carnival Fascination to provide housing for FEMA workers following Hurricane Maria. 

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Daniel Rivero, WLRN states that FEMA agreed to pay Carnival $74,700,000 to provide accommodations aboard the Carnival Fascination to house federal aid workers and first responders in St. Croix.  

As WLRN explains, the FEMA-Carnival contract provides that the cruise line agreed to house 2,056 FEMA workers for the length of the four month contract. The average number of nightly passengers for the contract period was around 800 which, given the contract price, turns out to be $834 per person Carnival Fascinationper night, paid by U.S. taxpayers. That’s a staggering rate or well over over $5,000 per week per passenger. 

WLRN calculated the market rate for a cruise on the Carnival Fascination between $370 and $1,200 per person per week, which is a fraction of the rate paid by FEMA. 

I also obtained a copy of the FEMA-Carnival charter agreement pursuant to a FOIA request earlier this year. It revealed that FEMA agreed to pay what turns out to be $18,675,000 a month for the Fascination

This exorbitant amount of taxpayer money is even higher than what FEMA paid Carnival in 2005, to charter three Carnival cruise ships following Hurricane Katrina. FEMA agreed to pay Carnival an average of only $13,111,111 a month (for a total of $192,000,000) to charter the Carnival Sensation, Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival’s Holiday for 6 months (plus $44,000,000 for fuel and other expenses) following hurricane Katrina.

Plus, as I pointed out in the article FEMA Agreed to Pay Carnival $74,700,000 for Charter of Carnival Fascination, Carnival didn’t pay any federal taxes on this income. 

In the WLRN article, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein pointed out that Carnival is registered in Panama and pays almost no U.S. income taxes which he believes is a larger concern for how the contract was handled.

“The US Government hired a foreign registered corporation that uses foreign registered vessels with foreign workers (working in the US but not paying US income tax). And because the corporation is offshore, and the ship is offshore, the company pays virtually no income tax on the contract. Now that is a sweet deal,” Professor Klein told WLRN.

What is even more disturbing is that, as WRLN points out, FEMA first (over) paid Carnival even before it disbursed funds to the survivors in the U.S. Virgin Islands hit by the hurricane. Numerous media sources are also now reporting that the death toll in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria was drastically underestimated. The consensus is that that the actual number of deaths was around 5,000 citizens, compared to official estimates of less than 100.   

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Photo credit: Chrismschurz – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Carnival Passenger Regina Gilliam Located The cruise passenger reported missing last week after she disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, has been located. We wrote about the incident – Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI.

A family friend left a message on this blog, stating that " . . . she was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . "  A post on an article in a Virgin Islands newspaper (which has not been verified) explained that "she was allegedly "kidnapped by gun point somewhere close to where it docked."

This account, if true, has not been confirmed by the local police in St. Thomas. 

This morning, a local newspaper in St. Thomas, published an article reporting that yesterday (Sunday):

". . . at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately . . . "

The article continued:

"Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte (the V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer) said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation . . . "

The official account, or course, raises more questions than provides answers.  Was Ms. Gilliam really abducted? And if so, when and by whom?  Carnival reported her missing when the Splendor left port on Thursday afternoon and she was located on Sunday morning, three days later. Some people are questioning whether she was really kidnapped. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has motivation to downplay the incident; the islands obviously do not want the bad publicity of cruise passengers being abducted playing out in the international press.

Women going ashore from cruise have been victims of foul play in the past, such as in Mexico and in Bonaire, where Royal Caribbean crew members were murdered after going ashore in ports of call. If Ms. Gilliam was in fact kidnapped, this is obviously is a serious matter that should be acknowledged by the police in St. Thomas; those responsible for the crime should be arrested and help responsible, and the USVI tourism people and the cruise lines have a duty to warn the public.

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Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Newspapers in the United States Virgin Islands are reporting that a Carnival cruise line passenger has gone missing in St. Thomas after disembarking from the Carnival cruise ship on Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

The missing passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Regina Gilliam, who is reportedly 5 ft 4 inches in height.

Photographs released by the Virgin Islands Police Department and available online at the Virgin Island Free Press are below.

Ms. Gilliam left the Splendor, after it reached St. Thomas, at 8:19 A.M. last Thursday, but did not to the cruise ship by the time it left port on Thursday afternoon. 

Comments posted on the Virgin Islands Consortium are expressing hope that Ms. Gilliam has not been met with foul play, with one person commenting that " . . . we don’t need the cruise ship industry to have yet another reason to pull out."

Carnival pulled out of St. Thomas after one of its guests was shot and killed during a shore excursion there in 2010. We represented the young girl’s family. The case resulted in one of the leading decisions explaining the cruise line’s legal obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call where it frequents – Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

There have been a few cases where cruise ships have left ports of calls without their female crew members who have met with foul pay like this case and this one as well. 

Fortunately, most passengers who "disappear" at ports of call in the Caribbean (it seems like most such cases occur in Jamaica like these three, and this one, and these two, and these two as well) eventually turn up safe and sound.  

Let’s hope for the best with Ms. Giliam. 

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September 3, 2017 Update: According to the comment below, a friend of Ms. Gilliam reports: " . . . she has been found and is awaiting a ride to get back home. She was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . " There has  been no formal announcement from the Virgin Islands Police Department. 

September 4, 2017 Update: The St. Thomas Consortium in an article today states that:

"… on Sunday at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately, Mr. Dratte (Public Information Officer)said.

Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation."

Of course, this account, which does not explain why she went missing, raises more questions than provides answers. 

Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Regina Gilliam Carnival Passenger St Thomas Virgin Islands

 

 

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports today on the death of a young girl killed during a cruise stop in St. Thomas.  We represent the parents of the deceased girl, Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, a victim of the saddest, most senseless and avoidable tragedies we have ever seen in 28 years of practicing law.  Here is the article today:  

"ST. THOMAS – The family of Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, the 14-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet in a shooting at Coki Point beach last year, is suing Carnival Corporation for the wrongful death of their daughter and for not warning the family about the high level of crime on St. Thomas.

The civil lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida, seeks damages in excess of $75,000.

On the morning of July 12, 2010, gunfire broke out during a burial service at Coki Point cemetery, leaving St. Thomas resident Shaheel Joseph, 18, and Liz Marie dead.

The area was crowded with mourners and tourists, including Liz Marie and her family, who were traveling onboard the Carnival Victory. The family, from Puerto Rico, was celebrating their daughter’s quinceañera, or 15th birthday, as well as the parents’ 23rd wedding anniversary.

Liz Marie Perez ChaparroLiz Marie and her family were riding in a safari taxi leaving Coki Point beach and Coral World when the mid-morning gunfire broke out. Liz Marie was shot once in the side and was rushed to Schneider Hospital but died shortly after.

In April, a V.I. Superior Court jury convicted Steve Tyson, 22, of killing Joseph and Liz Marie. He is scheduled for sentencing June 21.

Liz Marie’s father, Ceferino Peréz; mother, Aida Esther Chaparro; and 21-year-old brother, Amilkar Peréz Chaparro are plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against Carnival.

The complaint says the defendant, Carnival Corporation, has a duty to warn passengers of any danger known to exist in any port of call.

According to court documents, on the family’s first night of the cruise a Carnival employee encouraged the family to visit Coral World and Coki Point beach while on St. Thomas.

"Coki Beach is well known as a location for drug sales, thefts, and gang violence. There have been numerous reported violent crimes at Coki Beach. Carnival was well aware of these violent crimes," the family’s complaint said.

The lawsuit characterizes the burial service as a gang funeral conducted for a gang member who had been shot to death by a rival gang member the previous week.

The service at Coki Point cemetery was for Joseph Ferrari, 23, who was shot in broad daylight in front of Tutu Park Mall on June 29, 2010.

The Perez family’s lawsuit cites local news reports about the high number of homicides in the territory in 2009 and 2010. It also quotes testimony of V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer at a Senate hearing three months prior to the Coki Point shooting acknowledging that many of the territory’s killings were the result of turf wars and revenge killings.

"Defendant knew or should have known that St. Thomas was experiencing a crime wave and that homicides in the Virgin Islands were at record highs," the complaint said.

Liz Marie’s death was because of Carnival’s negligent failure to investigate or screen its ports of call, the lawsuit said.

The suit also accuses Carnival of concealing, suppressing and mischaracterizing information about prior incidents where cruise ship passengers were victimized and of protecting Carnival’s own business interests at the expense of passengers’ rights."

– Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-7882 ext. 311 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

 

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

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

For additional information, read:  "Heartache Wrenches Those Who Knew Slain Girl"

Steve Tyler - Murder St. Thomas - Cruise - Liz Marie Perez ChaparroYesterday a jury in the U.S. Virgin Islands convicted a 22 year old man in St. Thomas of killing a young Carnival cruise ship passenger last July. 

The jury convicted Steve Tyson (photo left) of two counts of murder related to the July 12, 2010 shootout near the popular Coki Beach tourist attraction.

14 year old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro of Puerto Rico, was struck by a bullet as she and her family rode in an open-air safari taxi after disembarking from the Carnival Victory cruise ship 

Our firm represents the Chaparro family.  We wrote about the sad incident last summer More Caribbean Crime – Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Also killed during the incident was Shaheel Joseph, age 18, who is a local resident of St. Thomas.

St. Thomas has an astronomically high murder rate. The Coki Beach area is well known to local residents as suffering from gangs, drugs and crime.  Carnival did not warn the passengers of these facts prior to taking their cruise fares and sailing them into this dangerous port.

 

Photo credit:       virginislandsdailynews.com