On Friday January 6th, a passenger who traveled on an airplane to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, picked up his luggage at baggage claim, went into the bathroom and removed a firearm from his checked bag, and then proceeded to start shooting people in the passenger baggage area. The shooting resulted in five people killed, and six others injured. The shooting suspect is a 26-year-old Iraq war veteran named Esteban Santiago.
While this tragedy is another example of needless deaths caused by some psychotic troubled individual, it would normally not be an incident discussed on a maritime news blog. However, this incident actually ended up having a direct impact on the cruise ship industry. Four of the passengers killed at the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting were about to go on a cruise. Cruise ships were also delayed in their departures. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Conquest, Holland America’s Eurodam and Coral Princess left several hours later than they were supposed to. The mood aboard the ships was also affected, as many of the passengers had either witnessed or heard about the deadly attack.
In fact, Holland America Line offered free counseling to the passengers on its ships because of the incident. Fort Lauderdale is a popular hub for passengers flying into Florida to board a cruise ship at the Port Everglades port. Passengers fly in to the airport, and then are transported to the cruise ship by representatives of the different cruise lines. Holland America’s ships frequently depart from the Port Everglades port, and this traumatic event affected several of the passengers who were on their way to a Holland America cruise that day. The cruise line contracted with Empathia, an emergency management company, to offer free counseling to those affected passengers via a hotline.