This past week, there were two reported incidents of missing paddle boarders. The first incident occurred in Pensacola Beach Florida, where the body of a missing paddle boarder was found near the Bob Sikes Bridge early Tuesday morning. The victim, a male 26-year-old from Texas, was reported missing on Sunday, when a tourist found his paddle board and life jacket floating in Little Sabine. It is unknown at this time whether he was wearing a life jacket.

paddleboard-300x225The second incident involved another male in his 20s who went missing Sunday night at Hobie Beach, which is off the Rickenbacker Causeway. His body was found a couple of hours later. Bystanders had saw him fall off his board and went to help him, while others called 911. By the time they reached the area, the victim was already submerged under water. He was reported to not have been wearing a life jacket. According to the employees at the rental company the male had rented the paddle board from, the company in fact has a life jacket requirement. It is unknown why the victim was not in compliance with the requirement at this time. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the death and whether the victim knew how to swim.

These tragedies again highlight the dangers of operating any sort of personal vessel on the water. There has been a growing rise in paddle boarding, which means there has been a growing rise in the accidents and fatalities resulting from paddle boarding.  According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the U.S Coast Guard has determined a paddle board to be a vessel in most situations. This means that paddle boards are required have safety equipment similar to other human-powered vessels such as kayaks and canoes. Although in Florida it is not required to wear a life jacket, each paddle board must have a lifejacket for each person and some type of sound-producing device, like a whistle or horn, that can be heard in case of danger.

This past Thursday, a fire broke out in the engine room of the MS Nordnorge, a passenger/ ro-ro cargo ship, while the ship was docked in Norway. City firefighters and crew members helped extinguish the fire. Although the ship did not suffer any serious damage, three of the crew members on board had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

norway-port-300x225I have reported many times on fires at sea and the dangers it creates to both the passengers and crew, as well as the damages it causes to the vessel itself, and the dangers it creates for those who come to the rescue or otherwise are in the vicinity of the fire, depending on how quickly the fire is detected and put out. Obviously, the number one goal is fire prevention, and then fire detection if prevention does not work,

There have been several fires at sea involving major passenger cruise ships, most of which have started in the engine rooms as well. The focus of fire detection must zero in on engine room fires as well as all other areas of the vessel. Many lives have been lost at sea due to fires. A fire at sea poses unique difficulties because you must rely on the crew on board the ship to respond to the fire and extinguish it. Unlike fires on land, you do not have fire rescue coming to the scene within minutes to put out a fire. Therefore, the crew must be properly trained in firefighting. In this situation, the MS Nordnorge was docked when the fire broke out, so city firefighters were able to quickly help to extinguish the fire.

PART ONE

It was in 2005 that I first appeared before Congressional Hearings to address cruise ship safety and security.  I was invited to testify as a Maritime expert to assist the members of Congress in addressing safety concerns onboard cruise ships, and answer questions related to the type of problems most prevalent on cruise ships, and what laws govern the cruise ship industry when something does happen to a United States passenger.  At the Congressional Hearings, several victims on cruise ships also testified, including victims of sexual assaults, and other crimes.

congress-1-300x200At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith, whose son George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  His body was never located, and the FBI actively investigated the case for several years before closing the file without any resolution.  It was believed that his disappearance was a result of foul play, and it was suspected that he was actually murdered onboard the ship.  However, no body was ever found, making it difficult to establish and prove foul play, and no one was ever charged criminally with his disappearance.

PART TWO

The most recent legislation Congress has introduced is called the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which would also amend the Death on the High Seas Act, an outdated law that denies family members the right to recover intangible damages for the loss of their loved ones due to negligent and wrongful death when the death occurs on a cruise ship in international waters.  Intangible damages are the type of damages that compensate family members for the grief, mental anguish, loss of comfort and companionship of their loved ones who are killed due to the wrongful conduct of another.

congress-300x200The Death on the High Seas Act was amended by Congress in 2000 to allow families of international plane passengers to recover damages for the loss of care, comfort and companionship.  However, the act was not amended with respect to deaths that happen on cruise ships.  There is no conceivable reason that can be advanced for this distinction, other than the cruise ship industry has been very successful in their lobbying efforts to prevent the amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act.

We previously reported about another instance of a major cruise line absolutely disregarding the law, and attempting to cover up their intentional violation of international laws involving contaminating the waterways. This past Wednesday, a United States District Judge sentenced Princess Cruise Lines, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, to pay $40 million dollars in penalties, which is the largest penalty ever imposed for crimes involving deliberate pollution by a vessel of the waterways.  Princess Cruise Lines, as other major cruise lines have in the past, was found to have illegally dumped overboard oil contaminated waste, and then attempted to cover up the violations by falsifying official records.

gavel-300x200As I have stated before, intentionally disregarding the law, and lying to authorities in order to cover up the violations, is not a first to the cruise ship industry. In the past, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line pled guilty to felony charges of also illegally polluting the waterways and falsifying official records to cover up the violations of the laws. In this most recent example of another major cruise line disregarding the law and lying to authorities, U.S. District Judge also ordered that $1 million be paid to the British engineer aboard the Princess Cruise ship who first exposed the illegal dumping of waste into the waterways.  He initially reported the illegality to the British maritime and Coast Guard Agency, who then provided the evidence to the United States Coast Guard.

Princess cruise lines reached an agreement last December to pled guilty to the seven felony charges stemming from illegally dumping oil contaminated waste at sea and then intentionally covering up the violations.  Thus, Princess is another cruise line with felony convictions, making it a felon.  As I have said before, if an individual testifies in a court of law, a prior felony conviction involving dishonestly may be used to attack the witnesses’ credibility.  I see no reason why these felony convictions of the major cruise ship companies should not be admissible in a court of law to attack the credibility of the cruise ship companies when they come into court and make representations as to how safe their cruise ship is, and testify about their safety records.  How can we trust that the representations made by the cruise ship companies, who are convicted felons, are indeed truthful?

Today Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that they will begin employing lifeguards at their family pools this summer. I have been advocating for years that cruise ship companies should step up to the plate and pay the money to put lifeguards at the swimming attractions onboard cruise ships.  These days, mega cruise ships have major swimming attractions, and drowning is a serious risk aboard these cruise ships.  I have seen way too many drownings that could have been prevented.

lifeguard-263x300Previously, Disney cruise lines was the only cruise ship company that had decided to place lifeguards at the swimming attractions on board their ships after the near-drowning of a four-year-old on one of their cruises. However, despite the fact that drownings continued on board cruises, the other major cruise ship companies including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess and Holland America Lines, continued to not have lifeguards on their ships.

We recently reported that Royal Caribbean stepped up to the plate and finally put lifeguards onboard their ships after additional drownings occurred.  Unfortunately,multiple cruise ship drownings had to occur to get the cruise lines attention regarding such an important aspect of safety when operating water amusements onboard their ships. As I have reported many times, the shipboard activities onboard these mega cruise ships pose serious safety risks, as many of these attractions are built for land.  Having these attractions on a floating hotel with thousands of passengers, including an environment where alcohol consumption is rampant and children are present, poses a serious safety risk.  This means that all reasonably available safe guards must be implemented by the cruise ship companies to protect the passengers, and they should not put profits ahead of safety.

I first met Kendall Carver in 2005 in Washington D.C., when we were both testifying at Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security. He was a very passionate man, having recently lost his daughter Merrian when she went missing during a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith. George Smith had also gone missing on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship during his honeymoon cruise. Mr. Carver and I instantly formed a bond, which remains to this day.

This past Friday, my daughter and I attended the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington D.C., where Mr. Carver, deservedly so, received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the United States Department of Justice. It was a very moving ceremony, where well-deserving recipients of the awards were honored for their achievements in devoting their lives to helping victims of crimes. Mr. Carver was recognized for his relentless pursuit of justice for the victims of cruise ship crimes, and  the support he has provided to the families and friends of the victims. He has had a very meaningful impact on the safety of the cruise ship industry. He started the International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., and he was instrumental in helping to enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

ken-300x225The International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) was formed shortly after his daughter went missing, following the Congressional Hearings we both testified at. I had the honor of helping Mr. Carver form the International Cruise Victims Association. I have watched ICV grow leaps and bounds since its inception, increasing its membership, and gaining international recognition. It has helped many victims of cruise ship incidents, including crimes of sexual assaults.

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–There has been another reported incident of a passenger on a cruise ship falling overboard. This past Wednesday, a 23-year-old male passenger from Florida was reported to have fallen from the eighth deck of the Carnival Victory, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, at around 3 a.m. Since the cruise ship was close to the territorial waters of Cuba, Cuban authorities got involved in the rescue efforts, as well as the United States Coast Guard. After thoroughly searching the area for 16 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search for the missing passenger.

carnival-300x186Unfortunately, we have reported about way too many instances of passengers falling overboard during a cruise vacation, specifically on a Carnival cruise ship. Just last month, a 24- year-old male fell off another Carnival ship. According to Ross Klein, almost half of the overboard incidents on cruises have actually occurred on Carnival ships.

Why do passengers continue falling overboard?

MIAMI, Florida–Two spring-breakers quickly saw the fun and thrill of riding a jet ski turn to the terror of almost getting run over by a cruise ship. This past Saturday, two jet skiers were riding on these personal watercrafts right by the mouth of the Port Canaveral harbor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when their jet skis flipped them over into the water. At the same time, the Carnival Magic cruise ship was navigating out of the Port Canaveral Harbor. This meant that the two teenagers, ages 19 and 20, were now in the water, watching the approaching cruise ship come at them.

jetski-300x225Imagine a 130, 000-ton cruise ship coming at you, and imagine the horror of the pilot knowing there was no way to maneuver out of the way of the two girls. There is little ability to quickly maneuver a large passenger cruise ship, which in this case was the cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Not only is it hard to quickly maneuver a large cruise ship but it was also hard for the girls to swim out of the way, as a breeze was pushing the woman more into the path of the approaching cruise ship according to the Port Canaveral Harbor Pilot Capt. Doug Brown. Capt. Doug Brown quickly alerted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy who was at patrol boat nearby to come help. Luckily the deputy was able to rescue the two girls, as Brown tried to change the ship’s course.

This jet ski incident is unfortunately one of many, as we have reported on many accidents involving these personal watercrafts, including fatalities. Jet skis are dangerous instrumentalities. They are hard to keep under control, as they are very powerful and can go very fast.

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