Yet another cruise ship passenger is reported to have fallen overboard Friday during an Alaskan cruise.This time, the passenger was onboard the MS Westerdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship. The passenger is reported to have gone overboard while the cruise ship was passing through the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
The passenger was initially determined to be missing at approximately 3:50pm when he did not show up for a scheduled doctor’s appointment onboard the ship. Reports state that the cruise ship company reported the passenger missing to the National Park Service officials at approximately 7:30pm after a ship-wide search. At that point a search effort started involving 15 people, three vessels and an airplane, but the passenger was never found.
Yesterday, the National Parks Traveler reported that the man in fact fell overboard at around 6:45 am, which means there was a delay of about 13 hours before he was reported missing to authorities.
What Took so Long to Determine the Passenger Went Overboard?
Questions arise after a passenger is reported lost at sea. What caused the passenger to fall overboard? Was it a suicide? Was alcohol involved? Was foul play involved? What efforts were made to find the passenger? Were the efforts started too late? Could the passenger have been rescued?
In this case there clearly was not an automatic man overboard system. This is technology available to the cruise ship industry that can actually detect when a person goes overboard and cause an alarm to sound, enabling immediate activation of search and rescue efforts.
Recent Overboard Incidents Involving Cruise Ships
Recently there have been two other instances of people falling overboard. On June 30, a crew member fell overboard on a Norwegian cruise ship and was rescued 22 hours later by a carnival cruise ship, still alive. The fact that the crew member was rescued alive after falling overboard from a cruise ship illustrates an important point. People can survive falling overboard if rescued in a timely manner. The problem is, as in this case where the passenger went overboard in the glacier national park, is first the cruise line must receive a report someone is missing. The cruise ship company then conducts a ship wide search, which is time consuming. If surveillance cameras are reviewed quickly, sometimes it is obvious that a person went overboard and search and rescue efforts can be started immediately.
The other recent incident was just last Tuesday when a 73-year old man went overboard from the Seven Seas Mariner,a cruise ship operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, also in Alaska. Sadly, he was found in the water later that afternoon, deceased.
Safety Advocates for Those Injured or Harmed at Sea
Brett Rivkind testified at congressional hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security, including overboard issues. As a result of these congressional hearings, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which required cruise ship companies to avail themselves of the available technology to detect when a persona goes overboard. However, few cruise ship companies have done so. Thus, this further raises the question whether more people could be saved if the cruise ship industry would implement this technology, as congress urged them to do.
Maritime law governs a claim against a cruise ship company for personal injury or death, including overboard cases. Sometimes overserving of alcohol, or an untimely search and rescue effort will be a basis to seek holding a cruise ship company liable. There are also other theories of liability to argue to hold the cruise ship companies accountable.
Our cruise ship attorneys at Rivkind and Margulies, P.A., have handled many cases of cruise ship disappearances, including the well-publicized case of George Smith, who went missing during his honeymoon. He was never found. His death is believed to be a result of foul play, although no-one was ever prosecuted, and the FBI finally closed their file after many years. The death remains a mystery.
Our lead attorney Brett Rivkind has been a maritime lawyer in Miami for more than 30 years, representing many families of loved ones who have fallen overboard during cruise ships.