In an amazing story, it has been reported that a passenger from Shangai, who fell overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise from Japan to China, has lived to tell the tale. Last Wednesday, August 10th, the 32-year-old woman fell overboard when she leaned too far over a guard railing, falling four decks into the water. This is equivalent to about seven stories. Normally, the fall alone is enough to kill someone. Here is the first miracle; she survived the fall without any injury.
Once overboard, the chances of survival are also very slim, unless the cruise line detects the passenger going overboard promptly. In this case the cruise line did not detect that a passenger had gone overboard, so there were no immediate rescue efforts. Here is the second miracle; she survived 38 hours drifting at sea.
How did this 32-year-old female passenger survive? She reports that she stayed above the ocean water, and swam away from any large vessels she saw, because she was smart enough to know that she could be overcome by the wakes, or sucked into the propellers. Amazingly, she survived for 38 hours before she was rescued by a fishing boat Friday morning.
On board the ship was her father, who reported her missing the next morning. The father stated that the cruise line did not have his daughter going overboard on any surveillance video. The happy ending is that the daughter was reunited with the father, and only suffered minor injuries, mostly from jellyfish bites.
We have handled many cases involving a passenger going overboard, including the case where George Smith went overboard during his honeymoon cruise, never to be found. His case received national attention, became the subject of a movie and books, and until today remains an unsolved mystery. We tried relentlessly to get answers to his disappearance, but due to a lack of a thorough and prompt investigation, the case was never solved, and the mystery remains as to what happened to George Smith. Many believe he was murdered on board the cruise ship also operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
I spoke in Congress about the George Smith case when Congress addressed cruise ship safety and security. Eventually legislation known as the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was passed to make cruise ships safer for everyone. This Act includes a provision that cruise ship companies should implement available technology utilized to detect when a passenger goes overboard, so that alarms sound and a prompt rescue can begin. Although this technology does exist, the cruise ship companies have failed to comply and implement this technology without any explanation. Of course the technology is expensive and cruise ship companies are profit oriented, which can be the only reasons as to why cruise lines have not complied.
We are happy to hear of the happy ending in this case. It is truly a miracle that this young lady survived this ordeal. However, happy endings do not usually happen in the case of an overboard passenger. The technology set forth in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act can save many lives, and should be implemented.The cruise line has enjoyed favorable treatment for too long, and we need more stringent laws, and regulatory agencies on their back.
My maritime law firm continues to act as safety advocates for those injured at sea. We have been handling all kinds of maritime personal injury and wrongful death cases, including incidents involving overboard passengers, for over 30 years. Call us today for a free consultation.
Sources: Chinese tourist falls off cruise ship, survives 38 hours adrift at sea, Fox News.