Articles Posted in Wrongful Deaths

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.

The cause of the fire has not yet been learned. However, according to recent reports, the company has had safety issues for many years. There have been about 29 investigations involving boats associated with their casino boat operation. This included another fire on one of its shuttle boats in 2004, which was caused by poor maintenance and insufficient training.

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.

Our shore excursion accident lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies are currently working on a similar accident involving a tour bus that turned over in New Zealand during an excursion with cruise ship passengers from the same cruise ship company. The excursion company involved had a poor safety history record including a prior accident which prompted a criminal investigation, in spite of the fact that the cruise ship company had represented in its literature that they were using only the highest quality transportation services for the excursions they provided.

On Tuesday, at least 12 people died and 18 were injured when a tour bus carrying Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers crashed on an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Mexico. It was one of the deadliest cruise ship shore excursion accidents to have taken place. Ironically, I was interviewed by NBC news last Thursday about the dangers present when going on cruise ships and the obstacles to legal recovery when harm befalls a passenger traveling on a cruise.

cancun-300x226One of the cases we discussed is the case I am currently handling against Celebrity Cruises involving a horrible tour bus crash that occurred during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion in New Zealand. Celebrity promoted, marketed and sold tickets for this shore excursion, and even represented to the passengers that the cruise ship company only used the highest quality transportation services during the excursion. Our lawsuit claims that the bus driver was speeding and changing lanes frequently, and that the bus was poorly maintained and in bad condition, resulting in a horrible accident where the bus plummeted 100 ft. down a steep bank, severely injuring its passengers. Fortunately, no one was killed. After the accident, it was discovered that the transportation company employed by Celebrity had a poor safety record- a very similar prior accident resulting in a criminal prosecution due to an incompetent mechanic and faulty brakes.

In my interview, I discussed how shore excursions pose a potential danger to the millions of passengers who sail on cruise ships operating out of Miami, as the shore excursions take place in foreign countries where the passengers have no knowledge as to the safety record of the particular shore excursion company the cruise ship company is promoting and selling tickets for. I also discussed how the cruise ship company attempts to avoid liability for any of the incidents that happened during a shore excursion, typically arguing that the shore excursion companies are independent contractors. The lawsuit I filed on behalf of the injured passengers alleges various claims under several legal theories to defeat this argument and legally hold Celebrity Cruises responsible for such an incident. It is one of the intricate aspects of maritime law that an experienced maritime attorney needs to navigate carefully in order to obtain recovery for the passengers.

In a very sad story, it has been reported that this past Saturday, an 8-year -old girl traveling with her family onboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship fell to her death from the atrium aboard the ship. The ship was docked at the Port of Miami at the time, as it had just arrived back from a week-long cruise.  According to reports, the young girl was waiting with her family to disembark from the fifth floor when she fell over the railings, which was about “two stories” high. Despite efforts of passengers and emergency medical personnel, the young girl died.

miami-300x225Why she fell was not reported. However, there will be video footage of the incident as there are surveillance cameras onboard the ship in this area. This will hopefully provide us with an answer as to why this happened, and of course the important question of how this tragic accident could have been prevented.

The beautiful designs on these mega cruise ships do pose safety hazards for passengers on cruises, such as the hazard or danger of falling from the landings or railings. Since this was the day of disembarkation, with thousands of passengers in a hurry to disembark, there may have been issues of crowd control, which allowed the girl to escape her parents and somehow fall over. Right now, it is purely speculation. However, an investigation must be done to determine the cause, and if there was anything that could have prevented such an incident, including an analysis of the design of the area, any warnings, and how the crowd was managed during disembarkation.

There is a report of yet again another passenger on a cruise ship reported to have gone overboard, and not found. The latest involves a 32-year-old male from Georgia, a passenger on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, who reportedly went overboard in the early morning hours of Friday, April 7, while the vessel was in Bahamian territorial waters after having left Cape Canaveral, Florida.

carnival-liberty-300x225At this time, the reports are that the United States Coast Guard was participating in the search and rescue efforts, as it does involve a United States citizen, and the ship did depart from the United States port. The Bahamian maritime authority will also get involved since the incident did happen in Bahamian waters.

Statistics that are available indicate there have been a number of passengers who have been reported to have gone overboard on a cruise ship this year alone. Just two weeks ago, we reported on another carnival passenger who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory ship.

MIAMI, Florida–The body of a female passenger who had gone missing from a Tirenia ferry has been located two months later in the ship’s ventilation shaft. The female passenger was aboard the MV Sharden, a ferry which can carry almost 3,000 passengers and 850 cars, back to Genoa after having vacationed in Sardinia, Italy with her husband. According to reports, the couple had been resting on sunbeds aboard the boat when his wife disappeared. The captain then ordered the ship personnel to conduct a search of the entire ship. Sadly, his wife could not be found, leading to the conclusion that she either had fallen overboard or had been the victim of a crime. However, two months later, her dead body has been found in the ship’s ventilation shaft. According to an autopsy report, she had died the night after she had disappeared

italy-300x225There have been incidences in the past where a passenger has reported something falling from above, believing it to have been a body falling into the water. The cruise ship company would then do an investigation on board the ship, determining that a passenger was indeed missing. However, at that point, precious time had passed before the authorities were notified and the search and rescue efforts started. This meant that usually the passenger was not found.

In 2010, President Obama signed into law legislation called the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which in part addressed overboard passengers, what Congress believed to be a serious problem with the cruise ship industry. Not only did Congress address the problem that these incidents were not always reported, as there were no mandatory reporting requirements that applied to the cruise ship industry at the time, but there was also a concern with delayed search and rescue efforts once a passenger was reported overboard. The legislation called for implementation of available technology, which would enable ships to immediately detect when someone had fallen overboard, prompting quicker search and rescue efforts.

MIAMI, Florida
–The sinking of the United States cargo ship El Faro, resulting in the loss of 33 mariners when the ship ran directly into the Category 3 Hurricane Joaquin, has been under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The cargo ship sank during a cargo run between Jacksonville, Florida and Puerto Rico. The voyage data recorder, similar to the black box aboard an airplane, was recovered. The ship’s data recorder, which recorded audio of the ship’s last 26 hours from microphones placed on the bridge, revealed conversations between the captain and the shoreside personnel, as well as conversations and comments from crew.

cargo-ship-300x225There still is no final conclusion reached by the NTSB as to the cause of this sinking, but the recent 510-page transcript reveal more about why this boating tragedy happened. Hurricane Joaquin clearly strengthened unexpectedly, and did end up taking a different track than anticipated. The captain apparently relied on conflicting forecasts to maintain his track during the voyage, not taking an alternative route. However, the investigation has revealed that weather conditions clearly deteriorated, and updated weather forecasts should have alerted the company and the captain that a change in the intended route of the vessel was required.

The audio recordings reflect that the captain considered changing course, but for some unexplained reason did not make the adjustments that were discussed. The recordings reflect the crew members questioning the captain’s decision not to change course, and as the conditions deteriorated and it became more evident that the captain was taking the vessel into dangerous waters and conditions, the recordings reflect the crew members’ voices becoming firmer and stronger.

MIAMI, Florida–Florida remains one of the leading states in the country regarding fatalities associated with recreational boating and water sport accidents.In this recent tragedy reported by various news outlets, it is reported that a 15-year-old boy from Vero Beach, Florida died after being thrown out of a 17-foot Boston Whaler boat that was driven by another young teenager in the Indian River Lagoon. 

waves-300x225The boat involved in this accident was towing another person who was either water skiing or wakeboarding at the time.  How fast the boat was going is unknown at this time but apparently it had some type of wake causing the boy to be ejected and knocked unconscious. The early reports indicate he was not wearing a life jacket. Efforts were made for search and rescue, and the United States Coast Guard was involved. His body was found in the lagoon later that afternoon.

 This is a very sad story. The young man was reported by fellow students to be well-liked, and had just recently made the varsity football team at his high school. It saddens me to hear that a case like this will simply add another number to the statistics of fatalities involving boating accidents here in the state of Florida. Once an investigation is completed we will know the true cause of this unfortunate tragedy, a needless death of a young man who obviously had a very bright future.

MIAMI, Florida–We have recently heard of two separate tragedies resulting from two separate excursions in New Zealand. When signing up for a shore excursion in a foreign country, we do not always consider the fact that the country we are in for the day may not have the same type of laws and safety protocols we are used to. We also do not consider that if something does happen to us during a shore excursion in a foreign country, what recourse we may have against the wrongdoer. As an American citizen abroad, we may in fact have limited ability to obtain justice against a wrongdoer whose negligence causes us harm.

newzealand-300x225These tragedies occurred during tours organized for the passengers on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship that was docked for the night in New Zealand on November 22, 2016.  The first incident involved a tour bus full of cruise ship passengers crashing into a driver of a Mazda. The driver died as a result. The second incident involved a 71-year old cruise ship passenger on a cycle tour who was hit by a truck. She also died as a result of the accident.  Although injuries and deaths are not unusual during a shore excursion, as we have recently reported of another tragic accident on a shoreside excursion in the Dominica, two deaths on the same day from two different excursions is very unusual.

We understand that there is a risk of being hit by a car anywhere, and also, simply because there are risks associated with taking a cruise that travels internationally across the high seas, does not mean in any way that we suggest you do not take a cruise. Going on a cruise is a great way to spend a vacation, to relax, and to have fun. There are numerous activities both on board the cruise ship, and at the different ports the cruise ship visits.

MIAMI, Florida–A British cruise ship passenger has died and nine others have been injured in a tragic bus crash during a shore excursion in the Caribbean island of Dominica. The bus was on its way back from a tourist attraction when the accident happened. The cause of the accident is still not known. The passengers were from the P&O ship Azura.

dominica-300x198It is not uncommon to hear of passengers on cruise ships injured during accidents involving transportation of passengers to and from the site of the excursion, whether involving a bus, boat or other type of vehicle. In a case like this we would want to investigate the history of the shoreside excursion company, the longevity of the relationship the cruise ship company, in this case P&O Cruises, had with this particular company, and whether there were any prior problems with this company that the cruise company knew or should have known about.

The main question I receive is whether the cruise ship company can be held accountable for the negligence of the company operating the shore excursion. The maritime law has addressed this issue many times, and there is no simple answer to the question. However, it boils down to the usual question whether there is negligence on the part of the cruise ship company.

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