Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Drowning

MIAMI, Florida–Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is now the second cruise lines to step up to the plate and implement the use of lifeguards at their swimming attractions. I commend them for this move, even though there has been reluctance in the past to do so. We have written numerous times about tragic drownings that have occurred on board cruise ships in the swimming pools scattered throughout these mega cruise ships, mostly involving small children. In fact, in the last three years we have heard about at least four other drownings on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This does not include the other cruises, in which we have also heard about multiple drownings occurring in the past few years on board their ships. Although the cruise ship companies seem to feel that a simple warning sign about swimming at your own risk is sufficient safety precautions for their cruise ships, Disney Cruise lines had previously been the only cruise ship company to step up to the plate and utilize lifeguards on board their ships, and even at their private island.

lifeguard-1363200-300x225It’s about time Royal Caribbean has employed lifeguards, becoming only the second major cruise line in the world to have lifeguards. We have learned from recent news reports that all the lifeguards hired by Royal Caribbean will be licensed and trained through StarGuard elite. In addition to employing lifeguards, the cruise line plans on implementing a few more water safety updates to their ships, specially targeted towards young cruise passengers. This includes signs reminding parents that they have swim vests available for young children and there will also be a water safety presentation during the orientation of the Adventure Ocean kids program.

We have always advocated for lifeguards on cruise ships because they are trained in recognizing signs of a drowning about to occur, as well as responding to a drowning situation It is easy for children to get separated from their parents on a large cruise ship with so many people and distractions, and it only takes seconds for a drowning to occur. A trained lifeguard monitoring the pools would be in a much better position to spot a drowning situation about to occur, as well as recognize a situation demanding an immediate response. The lack of lifeguards on board the ship has been, in my opinion, a major source of the tragic drownings we have read about with the major cruise line companies who do not utilize lifeguards. Studies show how fast a child can drown, and often times to the untrained eye, a drowning situation is not as obvious as one may think. Time is critical, and the expertise of a lifeguard observing a problem and responding immediately is critical to the chances of survival.

lifeguardIn yet another incident involving a passenger emergency in a swimming pool on board a cruise ship, it has been reported that a 72-year-old lady had to be rescued by bystanders (not a trained lifeguard or other cruise line staff) when she appeared in distress while in a swimming pool on board  Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas.  The Anthem of the Seas may sound familiar when discussing the need for lifeguards, as this is the second major swimming pool emergency this year involving this ship alone! Just last month, an eight year old boy died after nearly drowning in a pool also on board the Anthem of the Seas.

My firm has repeatedly urged that there be requirements for lifeguards onboard cruise ships, where there are many swimming attractions present.  With the thousands of passengers running around all the time, including children, there are many opportunities for a brief moment of distraction, and for a disaster to occur.  A trained lifeguard is an expert at detecting a problem before it occurs, and of course an expert in responding to an incident if it is not prevented, as a timely response to any type of incident involving an individual in distress in a swimming pool needs immediate professional attention.

Cruise ship companies, including Royal Caribbean, have resisted placing lifeguards on their cruise ships, probably because of the expense.  Of course having lifeguards are more expensive and require cabin space, meaning less cabins to sell to passengers.  Again, profits seem to rule the day in the cruise ship industry.  For many years it has been urged to place stricter regulations on the cruise ship industry, and there has been some progress, but not enough.

cruise poolWe have previously reported about drownings on cruise ships. We believe this is a major problem that needs to be addressed. We have handled too many cruise ship drowning cases that we believe could have been prevented.

The most recent tragedy we have learned of is the near drowning of an 8-year-old boy yesterday evening while on board Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. According to various news outlets, the boy was found unconscious in one of the ship’s swimming pools, after at least 18 minutes without oxygen. Because additional medical attention was required, the ship altered its course and returned to its New Jersey port. Currently, the child is at Staten Island University Hospital on life support.

Maritime attorney Brett Rivkind previously spoke before the United States Congress on cruise ship safety and security. He urged Congress to closely analyze the cruise ship industry, their self-regulation, the laws that apply to them, and the laws that do not apply to them. Without strong safety legislation, passengers have to rely on the cruise ship industry itself to address many of the safety risks that are present on board these ships. Historically, we believe that this is a terrible method to assure safety for passengers, as the cruise ship companies are worried about their image and their profits. Therefore, safety often gets ignored in favor of profits.

lifeguard-station-1529349I have been writing about the necessity to place lifeguards at the swimming pools aboard the cruise ships for some time. Unfortunately, we have seen more drownings occur aboard cruise ships that do not have lifeguards present.

Currently, only Disney employs lifeguards to be present at the swimming pools onboard their cruise ships. The rest of the cruise ships have decided since there is no mandatory requirement to do so, they don’t want to spend the money. I assume they don’t want to spend the money and they don’t want to give up the cabin space a lifeguard would occupy instead of a paying passenger.

I have been handling maritime cases since 1983, and I fail to find any legitimate reason for not having lifeguards present at the swimming pools on the cruise ships. There are many children on cruise ships. The growth of the cruise ship industry has seen mega cruise ships with thousands of passengers onboard. The pools get very busy. Parents are easily distracted. Kids are easily attracted to the pools. A drowning takes very little time to occur. Often times a drowning situation is not immediately apparent to the eye of an inexperienced person, but apparent to a trained lifeguard who can act quickly to prevent the drowning, as occurred in the situation depicted in this video.

deckI was saddened to learn of another tragic incident involving a drowning onboard a cruise ship. This particular drowning involved a 10 year old girl who was with her family onboard a Norwegian cruise ship, the Norwegian Gem, for what was supposed to be a fun filled vacation lasting 7 days. The cruise ship left from New York and was heading to Myrtle Beach at the time of the drowning.

Shipboard medical personnel was unable to resuscitate the 10 year old girl and she died onboard the cruise ship. What a tragic incident for the family! It’s hard to imagine going on a cruise and losing a loved one during the cruise. The exact circumstances surrounding the drowning are unknown at this time. However, there has been a lot of debate about whether lifeguards should be present at the pools on cruise ships. The major cruise ship companies do not utilize lifeguards. Disney Cruise Lines is the only cruise line company known to utilize lifeguards.

Lifeguards are trained not only to respond to a drowning incident but to anticipate a drowning situation about to develop, and take appropriate precautions to avoid a drowning, and avoid having to attempt to resuscitate someone. It is the prevention portion that is critical, and this should mandate that lifeguards be present onboard the cruise ships. There are many water attractions on cruise ships, with thousands of passengers onboard, making it is easy to lose track of a young child.

As a maritime attorney, I have seen way too many cases involving drownings. My cases have not been limited to drownings on cruise ships. I have handled drownings in private pools, drownings in the ocean behind resorts, as well as drownings at private islands owned by cruise ship companies, where passengers are invited to snorkel and swim.

May happens to be national water safety month, and the following are very useful tips that have been provided courtesy of the “simple steps saves lives” program:

1. Staying close, being alert and watching children in and around the pool.

no lifeguardOver the weekend I was sad to hear of yet another drowning in a swimming pool aboard a cruise ship where there were no lifeguards present. This tragic event occurred shortly after the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas sailed on it way for what was planned to be a fun filled vacation. The young 4 year old child somehow wondered off from his mother and found his way to the swimming pool on the deck of the Oasis of the Seas where there were swimming pools and slides and other attractions.

I’ve previously blogged about the need to have lifeguards onboard the cruise ships. It is a crowded environment onboard a cruise ship, with thousands of passengers onboard the ship wandering around, and tons of attractions to participate in, and things to see and observe. A trained lifeguard protecting the pool areas would not cost the cruise line a lot of money, and would prevent disasters like this from occurring. It only takes seconds for a young child to start drowning, and drownings believe it or not, occur mostly when young children are in close proximity to those supervising them. Its often difficult to recognize a drowning immediately if you are not a professional. A professional lifeguard would be diligent in watching out for any problem situations around the pool areas onboard the cruise ships. Disney, after learning a lesson from a disaster onboard one of their cruise ships, started utilizing lifeguards onboard their ships. All the cruise lines should do so. It is a necessity, and should be required of the cruise line industry.

Just like it was necessary to implement legislation to require cruise lines to report crimes onboard their ships, because it was not enough to rely on the voluntary reporting that existed for years, we cannot rely on cruise line voluntarily implementing necessary safety measures onboard their cruise ships. Although there will be financial costs to the cruise lines for implementing a sufficient number of lifeguards onboard the cruise ships, children are a precious commodity and lives need to get saved, no matter what the costs!

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