Sadly, we have learned of yet another catastrophic accident involving an excursion in a foreign country, this time the Bahamas. Last Saturday, a tour boat carrying 10 Americans and two Bahamians exploded, killing one passenger and injuring 9 others. The engine exploded  only three minutes after leaving the shore, causing the boat to burst into flames. According to reports, the 40-foot charter tour boat was operated by the company Four C’s Adventures.

https://www.maritimeinjuryattorneyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/271/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-09-at-4.14.20-PM-300x192.pngOur firm was saddened to hear about this tragic accident that resulted in catastrophic injuries and a death. A 22-year-old passenger, Stefanie Schaffer, is among those who were injured in the explosion. She sustained injuries so severe that she unfortunately required amputation of both of her legs.  Tiran Jackson and his wife Maleka were in the Bahamas celebrating their anniversary. Maleka passed away from the explosion and Tiran is still recovering in a South Florida hospital. He has severe burns and had one of his feet amputated.

News outlets have reported that last Sunday afternoon, another tragic boating accident occurred on our Florida waterways. According to various news reports, Brad Martin Bramblett, a 59-year-old man, was ejected from his personal watercraft near the Panama City Marina. After falling overboard, the 17-foot Aquasport then circled around and ran over Bramblett. He sadly died from his injuries.

boat-300x200The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (“FWC” is the agency responsible for the investigation of a boating accident such as this and will conduct a full investigation and render a report issuing their findings. Whether it was due to some type of mechanical failure on the part of the boat, operational error, or even intoxication, remains to be seen. It is yet another example of the dangers of operating a boat on the waterways here in Florida and emphasizes again the critical need to be completely familiar with the operation of the boat, as well as the safety rules and regulations governing safety at sea.

Our case, L.A., a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., is getting national attention regarding the U.S. District Court  for the Southern District of Florida’s order denying Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. The case involves a 13-year-old boy who was on board the Independence of the Seas, a  Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, with his mother and brother.

Our client, along with a group of friends, was peacefully sitting and talking in a public library under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras. His mother and older brother believed the 13-year-old to be safe, as he was instructed to only converse with his group of friends and to remain in the public space. The family had read about the cruise ship company’s great safety and security record and felt safe under the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the ship. Like most passengers, she never thought that her child would be at risk for a sexual assault aboard the cruise ship.

Miami-based cruise ship attorney Brett Rivkind, who has been handling maritime cases for over 35 years, has three lawsuits pending involving multi-million dollar claims on behalf of cruise ship passengers, illuminating areas of potential danger for passengers.

br-pic-300x224The first case involves the sexual assault of a minor committed by adult passengers at approximately 2 a.m. in a public area of a cruise ship. The lawsuit alleges that the passengers were over-served alcohol to the point they were heavily intoxicated. The cruise ship employees permitted this and did not monitor their consumption nor their whereabouts after they left the bar.  The case, L.A. vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.,  alleges that sexual assaults are known to occur onboard cruise ships, often involving minors, yet passengers are not warned about these dangers. Passengers who are over-served alcohol become a danger to themselves as well as to others.

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.

I have written many times about the dangers associated with shore side excursions. The cruise ship companies continue to promote and sell excursions in foreign countries not governed by the same safety standards as the United States while sharing in the profit and then relying on the foreign company to operate the excursion.

tourboat-300x222Passengers are encouraged to purchase the shore side excursions directly from the cruise line under the false pretense that they have been vetted for safety and security.  Historically there have been many accidents as a result of dangers associated with foreign excursions and the poor safety history of the excursion companies endorsed by the cruise line.

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.

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.

I recently read an interesting article discussing a major threat to cruise ship safety. The article discusses that although fires on board a cruise ship have always been considered the major risk while at sea, flooding has also become become a major risk to the safety of those on board a cruise. In fact, according to the article, flooding has actually caused the most serious incidents on cruises. Cutting-edge technology is critical, as the NAPA experts consulted in the article discuss. NAPA provides solutions for ship design and function through software installation. Its software is in fact used to design all new boats. Its goal is to improve safety in the maritime industry. NAPA’s simulations are used as the basis for safety regulations.

cruise-300x191Because fires had been historically considered the major risk while at sea, for the last 30 years there has been technology at the bridge of the cruise ship that shows the location of a fire that occurs on the ship so it can be immediately attacked. The article discusses that previously there was not any technology that identified the source of flooding if that became an issue on board the cruise, which is why flooding has become such a safety threat.   New technology developed by NAPA is now available which will identify the exact source of the flooding, enabling a much quicker response to the problem. Without this software, there was no way to identify the source of the flooding.

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.