Two weeks ago we reported about a fatal Bahamas tour boat explosion. Sadly, another tour boat accident has occurred. The most recent incident occurred when 23 passengers on a sightseeing tour boat were injured after getting too close to an exploding volcano off the Big Island of Hawaii on Monday.

volcano-221x300Lava Ocean Tours is a tour boat operator in Hawaii who received a special permit to transport tourists 165 feet off the coast near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. The volcano had been erupting for more than 2 months prior to the incident, destroying as many as 700 homes. Despite prior lawsuits against Lava Ocean Tours alleging they failed to warn their passengers of the dangers, the tour operator continues to operate their tour boats close to the volcano. Video footage captures screaming passengers the moment molten rock and ash exploded hundreds of feet into the air and struck the boat called the Hot Spot. “We were pelted with the rocks and it embedded in your scalp and everything and the heat and the steam — you could feel it,” describes one of the passengers on the boat. Another passenger said he got third-degree blistering burns on his leg. Continue reading

Yet another cruise ship passenger is reported to have fallen overboard Friday during an Alaskan cruise.This time, the passenger was onboard the MS Westerdam, a  Holland America Line cruise ship.  The passenger is reported to have gone overboard while the cruise ship was passing through the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

alaksa-300x225The passenger was initially determined to be missing at approximately 3:50pm when he did not show up for a scheduled doctor’s appointment onboard the ship. Reports state that the cruise ship company reported the passenger missing to the National Park Service officials at approximately 7:30pm after a ship-wide search. At that point a search effort started involving 15 people, three vessels and an airplane, but the passenger was never found.

News outlets have reported this week that a young Israeli couple on their honeymoon aboard the Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, decided to try zip-lining during one of the ship’s port visits in Roatán, Honduras. What was intended to be the beginning of a long happy life together turned into tragedy as the result of apparent negligence on behalf of the cruise ship.

zipline-300x225While ziplining over a treetop canopy on July 5, 27-year-old Shif Fanken got stuck and stopped halfway down the cable when her husband, 24-year-old Egael Tishman, was released by staff members down the zip-line, resulting in a collision. The couple was rushed to the hospital where the husband died from his injuries. The wife is currently recovering in a hospital in Florida. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. At this time, the safety history and track record of the operator is unknown, nor do we know what knowledge the cruise ship company had previously gathered about the operator prior to the incident.

Sadly, we have learned of yet another catastrophic accident involving an excursion in a foreign country, this time the Bahamas. Last Saturday, a tour boat carrying 10 Americans and two Bahamians exploded, killing one passenger and injuring 9 others. The engine exploded  only three minutes after leaving the shore, causing the boat to burst into flames. According to reports, the 40-foot charter tour boat was operated by the company Four C’s Adventures.

https://www.maritimeinjuryattorneyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/271/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-09-at-4.14.20-PM-300x192.pngOur firm was saddened to hear about this tragic accident that resulted in catastrophic injuries and a death. A 22-year-old passenger, Stefanie Schaffer, is among those who were injured in the explosion. She sustained injuries so severe that she unfortunately required amputation of both of her legs.  Tiran Jackson and his wife Maleka were in the Bahamas celebrating their anniversary. Maleka passed away from the explosion and Tiran is still recovering in a South Florida hospital. He has severe burns and had one of his feet amputated.

News outlets have reported that last Sunday afternoon, another tragic boating accident occurred on our Florida waterways. According to various news reports, Brad Martin Bramblett, a 59-year-old man, was ejected from his personal watercraft near the Panama City Marina. After falling overboard, the 17-foot Aquasport then circled around and ran over Bramblett. He sadly died from his injuries.

boat-300x200The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (“FWC” is the agency responsible for the investigation of a boating accident such as this and will conduct a full investigation and render a report issuing their findings. Whether it was due to some type of mechanical failure on the part of the boat, operational error, or even intoxication, remains to be seen. It is yet another example of the dangers of operating a boat on the waterways here in Florida and emphasizes again the critical need to be completely familiar with the operation of the boat, as well as the safety rules and regulations governing safety at sea.

Our case, L.A., a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., is getting national attention regarding the U.S. District Court  for the Southern District of Florida’s order denying Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. The case involves a 13-year-old boy who was on board the Independence of the Seas, a  Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, with his mother and brother.

Our client, along with a group of friends, was peacefully sitting and talking in a public library under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras. His mother and older brother believed the 13-year-old to be safe, as he was instructed to only converse with his group of friends and to remain in the public space. The family had read about the cruise ship company’s great safety and security record and felt safe under the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the ship. Like most passengers, she never thought that her child would be at risk for a sexual assault aboard the cruise ship.

Miami-based cruise ship attorney Brett Rivkind, who has been handling maritime cases for over 35 years, has three lawsuits pending involving multi-million dollar claims on behalf of cruise ship passengers, illuminating areas of potential danger for passengers.

br-pic-300x224The first case involves the sexual assault of a minor committed by adult passengers at approximately 2 a.m. in a public area of a cruise ship. The lawsuit alleges that the passengers were over-served alcohol to the point they were heavily intoxicated. The cruise ship employees permitted this and did not monitor their consumption nor their whereabouts after they left the bar.  The case, L.A. vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.,  alleges that sexual assaults are known to occur onboard cruise ships, often involving minors, yet passengers are not warned about these dangers. Passengers who are over-served alcohol become a danger to themselves as well as to others.

This past Sunday, another fire onboard a passenger ship occurred, this one off the coast of Port Richey, which is just north of Tampa, Florida. The fire broke about a half a mile from shore on a shuttle boat operated by Tropical Breeze Casino, causing all of the 50 passengers and crew members to jump overboard and swim to shore.  There were over a dozen passengers who were reported to have been injured and a 42-year-old woman who was killed.

fire1-300x225The 60-foot shuttle boat was on its way to the Tropical Breeze Casino Boat (a company also known as SunCruz at one time) when the captain noticed smoke. After noticing the smoke, the captain turned the boat back to shore.  On his way back, the boat started having engine problems, which had been reported even before the accident in question.  The captain then ordered all 50 people on board to abandon the ship and swim to shore. There was no time to even hand out life jackets. The water, which was 59-degrees at the time, combined with the Gulf breeze actually created a risk of hypothermia for the passengers, some of whom were found face down in the water and would have died had the rescue efforts not been so prompt.

I have written many times about the dangers associated with shore side excursions. The cruise ship companies continue to promote and sell excursions in foreign countries not governed by the same safety standards as the United States while sharing in the profit and then relying on the foreign company to operate the excursion.

tourboat-300x222Passengers are encouraged to purchase the shore side excursions directly from the cruise line under the false pretense that they have been vetted for safety and security.  Historically there have been many accidents as a result of dangers associated with foreign excursions and the poor safety history of the excursion companies endorsed by the cruise line.

br-pic-300x224I previously wrote about the tragedy involving a Mexican tour bus that flipped over while transporting Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ship passengers to the Mayan ruins, and have recently spoken on both Channel 10 and CBS news regarding the safety of shore excursions. The cruise ship passengers involved in this tragic accident were on an excursion they had purchased from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. Typically, as was also seen in this case, the cruise lines promote the different shore excursions, profited from its sales, and urge its passengers to purchase the excursion directly from them rather than any independent company. It is also typical that passengers believe that that the cruise lines have performed a thorough vetting process for the shore excursions, and that their safety is backed by the cruise company. The passengers reasonably believe the cruise ship company would be responsible for recovery against the cruise ship company under various maritime legal theories, depending on the facts and circumstances.

The initial report about the cause of the accident in Mexico is that the driver was speeding. I believe that was apparent based on the fact that the bus flipped over in clear daylight with good weather conditions, and that there were no other vehicles involved. The real questions are going to be the root causes, as I refer to them. It is vital to get down to the root causes as to why something like this happened, killing and injuring many cruise ship passengers. The questions then become why was the driver speeding, and what was the condition of the bus, the safety history of the company, and the history of that particular driver, among other things. It is my opinion that the root causes will lead back to actions or inactions on the part of the cruise ship company, who should be held liable for these serious injuries and deaths.

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