Lifeboats are obviously designed to save lives, not to take lives. However, I have sadly represented numerous crew members who have been catastrophically injured or killed during a lifeboat or rescue boat safety drill, when the boat has broken from the wires lifting or lowering the boat, or there has been a failure of the mechanism used to lift and lower the boats.
The recent catastrophic incident happened on the Norwegian Breakaway, a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship. It is ironic that the name of this ship is Breakaway because the life boat broke away from its tethering and plummeted to the water. According to reports, on July 20, four male crew members were onboard a lifeboat during a routine safety drill when the boat fell into the water. The accident, which occurred while the ship was docked in Bermuda, left all four crew members injured. One of the crew members, Diogenes Carpio, was found floating in the water with several broken bones. He passed away at the hospital shortly after. Exact details as to why this tragedy occurred are still unclear.
I have seen a problem with the mechanism on the lifeboats, including what is called the limit switch, which is supposed to stop the raising of the boat at a certain point in order to avoid stress on the wire cables. I have also seen these type of incidents occur due to lack of appropriate maintenance, including lack of proper inspections of the lifeboats and their apparatus. I know one cruise line has recognized the need for a fleet-wide change of the type of apparatus utilized to raise and lower the lifeboats or rescue boats. It is unfortunate that it takes a death or serious injury in order to get the cruise line to pay sufficient attention to such an important life-saving device.
I am still at a loss as to why I have myself seen so many of these incidents over the years involving a lifeboat or rescue boat on a cruise ship. Just last year a similar incident occurred on another Norwegian Cruise line ship leaving two crew members injured. It is a scary thought to think that if there is a major disaster aboard one of these mega cruise ships carrying over 6000 passengers, that everybody will have to be evacuated in an emergency situation using these rescue boats and lifeboats.
Is it not enough that the passengers and crew members are subjected to the dangers of the sea, and the safety risk associated with being on board a mega cruise ship plying the high seas, that we do not have to also worry that the equipment used to save lives may itself pose significant safety risks to passengers and crew?
Our admiralty and maritime lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies, P.A., have been handling cases on behalf of seamen and crew members for over 30 years. We continued to be safety advocates for those harmed at sea, and handle all types of serious and catastrophic accidents aboard cruise ships, and other types of vessels, including cargo ships, tug boats, and barges, to name a few.