Samantha Broberg, a thirty-three-year-old passenger, fell from the deck of a Carnival Liberty cruise ship into the Gulf of Mexico around 2 a.m. Friday morning, May 13. However, it has been reported that she was not reported missing until Friday around noon. Had there been technology on the ship that could be “used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fall overboard,” as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, effective over four years ago in January 2012, this tragic incident may have had a happy ending. Instead the passenger went undetected for over ten hours before a search even began. The search did not end well with the Coast Guard suspending the search around 8:15 p.m. on Sunday. Additionally, video footage in fact captured Samantha Broberg falling over board. This raises another question, which must be addressed by authorities, why is there no requirement for the cruise line to constantly monitor the surveillance video cameras? The cruise lines admit that is not done, instead searching through footage after the long delay from the time the passenger went overboard, losing precious time and making the search and rescue effort almost a sure failure.
My firm has handled many cases involving passengers going overboard on a cruise ship, including the well-publicized case of George Smith, who went overboard during his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line cruise ship. His disappearance was suspected to be as a result of foul play, but an FBI investigation never resulted in any prosecution for any crime, and the case was closed by the FBI. I had the privilege of representing the Smith family, who was frustrated in their attempts to gain information from the cruise line about the incident. The family was relentless in pursuing the FBI, the cruise line, and Congress to solve the mystery, and to implement changes in the cruise ship industry.
The George Smith case resulted in congressional hearings. I had the privilege of being an invited speaker before Congress to answer questions on maritime safety and security as a maritime expert. The hearings led to more investigations and finally the implementation of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, implemented into law by President Obama when he signed the legislation on July 27, 2010.