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.
Lava 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.
Lawyers Experienced in Boat Excursion Accidents
As a maritime lawyer handling maritime cases for more than 30 years,our boat excursion accident attorneys at Rivkind & Margulies, P.A., have seen many cases where tour boat operators take passengers into dangerous areas for profit. They do not warn the passengers ahead of time so the passengers cannot appreciate the dangers they are being subjected to. Often times, profits rule over safety.
Recently we successfully concluded a case involving passengers on riverboat cruise in South America which was sold here in the United States to United States citizens. The riverboat cruise was touted as being a ship with updated safety features, compliance with safety standards, and a newly built vessel. A fire erupted during the cruise, leaving two passengers dead. We represented the family of the two passengers. Investigation revealed many safety violations and many misrepresentations about the safety of the cruise. The confidential settlement agreement was reached.
Often times when a passenger goes on a cruise ship, they sign up for shore excursions sold by the cruise ship company on board the ship. The cruise ship company represents that it is safer to buy the shoreside excursions directly from them and that they vet the companies for safety. We have handled many cases where passengers are subjected to dangerous conditions during shoreside excursions they had no idea they would be subjected to. Many times evidence has shown that the cruise ship company knew or should have known of the dangerous conditions because of their expertise and experience with the excursions they take their cruise ship passengers to. In addition, cruise ship companies profit from the sale of the shoreside excursions, and make it appear to the passengers that they back the shoreside excursions 100%. However, when an accident does happen during the shoreside excursion during the cruise, the cruise ship company will typically attempt to deny any liability and argue the shoreside company is an independent contractor. An experienced shore excursion lawyer will be able to explore other legal recourses in order to hold the cruise ship company liable.
Why was the tour boat allowed to get so close to the volcano?
In this recent case in Hawaii involving the volcano explosion, the United States Coast Guard has now determined that it will no longer allow any tour boats to come within a thousand feet of the volcano. Why they were allowed to get so close prior to this incident in question is unknown. Why the tour boat company would take the passengers so close and subject them to dangers is also unknown, except that it was a profitable venture for the tour boat company. This incident will have a long-lasting impact on these passengers, most likely lifetime impacts. It appears the tour operator was negligent in failing to do proper risk assessments, failure to provide proper warnings, and negligently subjecting the passengers to these type of risks.
We hope the Coast Guard’s restrictions now about tour boat operators getting too close to the volcano will prevent any further occurrences like this from happening and prevent further injuries.
The passengers injured on this tour boat excursion under general maritime law would be entitled to recover compensatory damages for their injuries, including their physical and mental pain-and-suffering, any disability, disfigurement, scarring, medical bills, and loss of earnings, both past and future. Depending on the evidence against the tour boat operator, punitive damages under the general maritime law may also be possible. If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of tour boat excursion, call our office today for a free consultation.