Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian news outlet, reported that the body of a man who had fallen overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas on December 21st had been recovered, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.  The ship was sailing towards Noumea, New Caledonia, approximately 550 kilometers east of Brisbane when the unidentified man went overboard. Our Florida maritime accident lawyers  have been covering this news extensively, and can provide legal advice to anyone that may find themselves in an accident related to time spend on a cruise.

Life Raft

An alarm was raised around 1 AM Queensland time after another passenger witnessed the man fall. According to reports, the ship’s crew threw life preservers and smoke markers into the water, and even launched rescue boats, but, however, they could not locate the man.  New Caledonian Law Enforcement Services will be investigating the death.

This incident is just another in a long line of unfortunate man overboard accidents which have plagued the cruise industry the last couple years. Last year, 30-year-old South Floridian Sarah Kirby fell overboard from the Carnival Destiny as it sailed from Miami to Jamaica. Kirby fell 100 feet to the water, striking a lifeboat on the way down. Kirby then spent the next two hours floating in the ocean at night, injured and struggling to stay afloat. Kirby’s story ended much more fortunately than many others.

Another man overboard incident in Australia occurred in May of this year, when Kristen Schroder and Paul Rossington both fell over the railing of the Carnival Spirit as it returned to Sydney at the end of a 10-day cruise.  It was not until the couple failed to disembark the next day that anyone even realized they were missing.  The couples’ bodies have never been found.

In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which requires cruise lines to equip their vessels with systems designed to automatically capture images of persons going overboard or to notify the crew if a person falls overboard.  The law is intended to spur immediate rescue action when a passenger goes overboard, however, few cruise lines have implemented any technology that complies with the law.

Man overboard accidents and passenger disappearances are becoming more and more common, rendering the rendering the need for experienced legal counsel for the victims and victims’ families injured or killed in such accidents increasingly important.  According to one estimate, since 2000, there have been more than 200 man overboard cases around the world, despite the fact that only a fraction of such numbers have actually been reported by cruise lines.

As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship accidents are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.  The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accidents for over four decades.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the Florida cruise ship lawyers of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

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Earlier this week, the cruise ship industry suffered yet another disturbing incident when MSC Cruises’ Magnifica ship, transporting 2,469 passengers and 976 crew members, allided with a pier in Piräus, Greece. Alliding is a term often used in nautical contexts to describe an impact with a stationary object. The Magnifica suffered minor damage to its hull, although there were no immediate reports of injuries to the passengers or crew. According to reports, the ship was blown into the pier by strong winds while it was being berthed.

Although the initial reports indicate that the cause of the incident was inclement weather, further investigation might reveal that there’s more to the story. Unfortunately, as this blog has discussed recently, the cruise ship industry is not always forthcoming with negative information regarding its safety record. In fact, docking and berthing incidents are more common than expected with a number of serious accidents having occurred in recent years.

Open Seas Credit

Perhaps the most memorable, and tragic, of these incidents was the sinking of the Carnival cruise ship Costa Concordia, which crashed into the rocks off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy, resulting in the deaths of thirty two individuals and injuries to dozens of others. Carnival and ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, took heavy criticism for the botched evacuation efforts, which suffered from significant delays, allegations of bribery, and the captain’s early abandonment of the ship.

Earlier this year another Carnival ship, the Triumph, broke loose from its moorings while docked at the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal. The ship was ultimately resecured without injury to any of the several hundred crew aboard. Last year, a Saga Cruises crew member fell more than seventy feet into the water during a lifeboat drill while the ship was docked in Southampton, United Kingdom.

Despite enhanced protective measures and policies designed to ensure passenger safety, cruising can be a risky activity. As demonstrated by the tribulations of the Magnifica, Costa Concordia, and Triumph, cruise ship accidents are becoming more and more common and don’t only occur while at sea. The increasing risk of cruising has rendered the need for experienced legal counsel for those injured in such accidents more important than ever.

Cruise ship accidents must be handled differently than ordinary personal injury cases, because they often arise under a different type of law, such maritime, admiralty, or contract law, and are subject to much shorter statutes of limitations to pursue a claim, sometimes as short as one year. Further, cruise companies often utilize various tactics to delay litigation, resulting in the degradation of evidence and, in certain cases, loss of the right to compensation.

The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accident for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

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Almost everyone felt the sting of the financial crash of 2008, but good news: we are coming back. Recreational industries are a great marker of how strong the market is; if consumers feel the pinch they let go of the fun stuff first. It should make you breath a fresh sigh of relief, then, to find out that the boating industry is on the upswing.
2012 saw a ten percent increase in recreational boat sales, nationally. It may not seem like much, but 2013 is expected to see the growth continue. The Miami Herald reported that Miami and Fort Lauderdale boat retailers and servicers have seen a steep increase in sales. Les Stewart, the sales and marketing director of Contender Boats Inc. in Homestead, FL, said that the company expects to sell 260 boats this year. That’s over a 100 percent increase from 2009 when they were, “lucky to sell a hundred boats…” according to Stewart. Contender also touts a 30 percent increase in the number of people it employs in the same timeframe. And that’s not the only South Florida company enjoying the return to recreation.

Companies like Deep Impact and Concept Boats are operating at maximum capacity. Deep Impact invested in development of new models during the recession and it paid off. They have already sold four of the 399 Cabin since its recent unveiling. Concept Boats is swamped with potential buyers who are attracted to the affordable prices they offer. The 30-foot open and 36-foot open are their best sellers.

Although many boaters downsized during the recession to save on maintenance and crew costs, the large luxury yacht industry has gained strength. In just two years, 2010-2012, yachts falling in the range of 80 to 200 feet saw a 30 percent increase in sales. Of course, the people who buy these multi-million dollar machines didn’t experience the economic decline like most of us. The smaller yachts are still moving slow, and the companies that manufacture them are relying much more on servicing for revenue than they were before 2008.

Since Broward Shipyard was bought and sold in 2009, the company’s income from servicing is 35 percent higher. Although
their engineering sector has declined, it still remains a focus for the company. Two 135-foot yachts are under construction for their client, World Sea Yachting.

It seems that although boat sales have climbed, many water enthusiasts are opting for chartering, and family friendly boats are proving to be the most popular. Not only has the boating industry seen growth but so has the cruise ship industry. Larger ships, more voyages and unfortunately more accidents as well. Whether staying close to home or island hopping, it’s important to understand what law governs your time on the open waters. Once a boat or cruise ship travels three nautical miles from shore Federal maritime jurisdiction rules over state laws. Gerson and Schwartz P.A. are experts in maritime law. If an accident occurred on or around the water you can count on Florida maritime attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz P.A. to give you sound advice. They represent clients injured in a number of different situations and have years of experience.

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Passengers Badly Rattled As Cruise Ships Ventured Through Superstorm Sandy

As Americans continue to tune into coverage of the massive land damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it may be inconceivable to many that cruise ship operators did not uniformly cancel Florida-based cruises that were set to sail into or near the well-mapped hurricane. Yet, while some cruise operators made the sound decision not to expose cruise passengers to the risks of Sandy, others directed their ships to proceed full steam ahead, with only minor course adjustments, arguing that modern cruise ships’ elaborate stabilization systems would protect them from the ravages of severely rough seas and exposing them to any accident or injuries. Unfortunately, top-heavy floating resorts proved no match for Sandy, and passengers trapped on these during the hurricane ended up witnessing frightening chaos and destruction.

The Show Must Go On, Say Cruise Operators

The October 29, 2012 edition of the Salisbury Post recounted the experience of a North Carolina family whose cruise on Disney’s Fantasy put them into the path of the storm. That account credits the ship’s captain with charting a course that avoided the fiercest zone of the hurricane, and with warning passengers to stay in their cabins; but it also conveys the great anxiety suffered by the family when it realized that “anything not bolted to the walls or floors was sliding side to side,” and that “deck chairs had crashed through doors.” Ultimately, said the mother of this family, one had to resort to faith in God in order to survive the terrifying ordeal.

At the time superstorm Sandy was brewing, the Bradley family of Cascade, Iowa, was scheduled to sail from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean on Disney’s Dream. According to coverage by KWWL TV in Iowa, the Bradleys tried to cancel their cruise reservations when they learned of the impending storm, but they were told by Disney that they would not receive a refund if they cancelled, and that they should rest assured that the cruise would safely avoid the path of the storm. Thus pressured to sail, the Bradleys traveled to Florida and boarded ship, but only hours after setting sail, the ship began to experience direct effects of the hurricane. According to the news report, the Bradleys watched unanchored objects rain down from shelves, and felt their cabins rattling. The severe rocking of the ship caused the Bradleys’ grandson to fall out of bed. Mrs. Bradley told KWWL that Disney “should have canceled instead of putting our lives in danger out there in 20 foot swells.”

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134152096.jpgMIAMI, FL—Authorities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard are investigating what might have caused a 25-foot charter boat to sink in the Florida Keys on Dec. 18. According to information provided by the Miami Herald, eight people were aboard the Key Largo Scuba Shack-operated vessel when it sank at approximately 3:15 p.m., ultimately claiming the life of a Washington State woman.

Eight individuals, including six divers, were aboard a Key Largo Scuba Shack-owned dive boat—the “Get Wet”— when for unknown reasons, the boat capsized and sank. Officer Bobby Dube of the FWC stated that according to witnesses, it only took “about two minutes” for the charter boat to sink.

Reports indicated 36-year-old tourist diver Aimee Rhoads was trapped inside the cabin of the dive boat when it capsized. Rescue crews performed CPR on Rhoads in an attempt to revive her, but to no avail. The victim was ultimately pronounced dead.

A second diver, 27-year-old New York man Amit Rampurkarl, was rushed to Kendall-based Baptist Hospital after he too became trapped in the cabin of the sinking dive boat. FWC spokesman Bobby Dube said that victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

The boat captain, one crew member and four other divers who were rescued following the Florida Keys accident managed to escape serious injury. The boat was reportedly headed to a well-known dive spot on Molasses Reef—located near Key Largo—when the boat began to take on water.

Dube told reporters the FWC will be looking into not only what caused the boat to sink, but why two of the divers on board became trapped. “Right now it’s a mystery why it sank, with more questions than answers… Even with just two minutes, they should have had time to get out… Maybe they went back to retrieve personal items. We don’t know. It’s just speculation right now,” he said.

Statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  indicated 668 boat accidents occurred during the year 2010. Those boat crashes and accidents resulted in 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries. Statistics suggest Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the nation.

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web.jpgMIAMI, FL— November 30, 2011 - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators are looking into what might have caused a powerboat to plow into a seawall during the early hours of Nov. 28, killing one boater and leaving another hospitalized with unspecified injuries. According to the Sun Sentinel, the fatal boating accident occurred at approximately 1:20 a.m. along the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Fla.

Reports suggested Aldo Antonio Rodriguez, 41, and female passenger Odalys Diaz, 45, were aboard a 25- to 26-foot center console vessel, navigating the Intracoastal Waterway in the dark, when the boat slammed into a western seawall. Diaz was thrown from the boat on impact. Rodriguez, on the other hand, became trapped in the vessel’s damaged bow as a result of the watercraft accident.

The crashed boat then mysteriously went on to circle the accident site, even after striking a second wall on the eastern side of the Intracoastal. According to Hollywood Fire Rescue Division Chief Mark Steele, who responded to the scene along with other paramedics from the department, “When they first saw it, they were like, ‘How is this happening?’”

Although emergency medical crews rushed both Rodriguez and Diaz to Memorial Regional Hospital following the violent boat wreck, Rodriguez’s injuries proved fatal at the hospital. The extent of Diaz’s crash injuries remained undisclosed.

While FWC detectives have yet to determine the cause of the Hollywood boat crash, speed was suspected to have contributed to the fatal accident. “That’s definitely something they’re going to take a look at… It is likely a factor considering the force involved in the accident… It will be under investigation for probably quite a while,” explained Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for the commission.

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powerboat-crash-key-west-super-boat-world-championships-racers.jpgMIAMI, FL— November 10, 2011 – A horrific South Florida boat crash claimed the lives of two offshore powerboat racers who were participating in the Key West Super Boat World Championships that took placed on Nov. 9th According to information provided by the Miami Herald, spectators were watching the powerboat race from Mallory Square, a waterfront plaza in Key West’s historic district, when a 46-foot powerboat went airborne, flipped, and wrecked upside down during the third lap.

Reports suggested Jeffrey Tillman and Bob Morgan, both Missouri residents, were racing Big Thunder, a Skater powerboat equipped with four 1,200-horsepower engines, in Key West Harbor when something went horribly wrong. During the third lap of the Key West Super Boat World Championships, the powerboat allegedly did a barrel roll and landed upside down, crushing the high-speed boat’s cockpit on impact.

Upon arriving at the site of the violent boating accident via helicopter, emergency personnel leapt into the water to rescue the severely injured powerboat racers. The accident victims were subsequently pulled aboard a rescue vessel and taken back to shore, where an ambulance was awaiting their arrival.

Unfortunately, both Morgan—who owns Big Thunder Motorsports Park and Marina Complex on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri—and Tillman—a Lake of the Ozarks developer— ultimately succumbed to their traumatic injuries and were pronounced deceased at Lower Keys Medical Center.

Beyond the fact that powerboat was clearly traveling at a high rate of speed when it flipped over and crashed, reports did not specify whether any other factors are suspected to have played a role in the fatal boating accident. Investigations are expected to continue.

Statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) indicated 668 boat accidents occurred during the year 2010. Those boat crashes and accidents resulted in 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries. Statistics suggest Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the nation.

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fatal-florida-keys-boating-accident-tread-water.jpgMIAMI, FL— October 12, 2011 - A horrific boating accident in the Florida Keys resulted in the death of an elderly Hialeah woman and left seven additional victims, including a 4-year-old child, treading water for nearly an entire day. According to information provided by NBC Miami, a 22-foot vessel sank off Long Key, in close proximity to the Tennessee Reef Lighthouse, at approximately 12 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation are conducting a full probe into the Florida Keys accident that resulted in the drowning death of 79-year-old Zaida San Jurjo Gonzalez. The boat operator and six other passengers, all of whom are related to one another, were only rescued approximately 20 hours after the boat capsized. Reports suggested that the boat sank upon being hit by a big wave off the coast of South Florida.

Both U.S. Coast Guard personnel and boat captain David Jensen helped rescue the survivors, one of whom was identified as 4-year-old Fabiana De Armas Lima, following the boat’s capsize. Authorities identified the remaining surviving victims as Hialeah residents Elena G. Gonzalez, 52, and Juglar Riveras, 34, and Royal Palm Beach residents Jorge Alejo Gonzalez, 62, Tomasa Torres Gonzalez, 57, Jose Miguel De Armas, 40, and Yunisleidy Lima Tejada, 25. The FWC aided in rescue missions.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2010 boating accidents statistical report, drowning was the cause of death for 62 percent of the 79 individuals who lost their lives in recreational boating accidents in Florida (a total of 49 victims) that year. Thirty-four percent of victims (27 people) died from trauma-related injuries, and the cause of death for the remaining four percent of victims (three people) remained unidentified.

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columbus-day-regatta-fatality.jpgMIAMI, FL— October 11, 2011 – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is conducting an investigation into a recent and horrific boating accident in which a man lost his life after falling overboard a vessel and into its propellers. The fatal incident occurred during Biscayne Bay’s 55th annual Columbus Day Regatta, NBC Miami reported.

According to Jorge Pino of the FWC, 45-year-old Juan Carlos Morales appeared to have been either sitting or standing on a 65-foot boat’s rear dive platform when he fell overboard and into the vessel’s propellers. The deadly boating accident occurred near Elliot Key along the coast of South Florida on Oct. 8.

While investigators are still unsure how the boat accident victim fell to his death, a full probe was expected to be underway. Morales was the first person to die in a boating-related incident this Columbus Day weekend, Pino said.

Although Pino stated that it also remained unclear whether alcohol played a role in the fatal boating accident, statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) suggested that alcohol use was the primary contributing factor of boating fatalities during the year 2010. In the past, countless boaters have been arrested for boating under the influence (BUI) during the Columbus Day Regatta at Biscayne Bay.

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florida-intercoastal-boating-crash.jpgMIAMI, FL— September 14, 2011 – Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Marine investigators are conducting a probe into an unfortunate boating accident that claimed the life of a fisherman on the morning of Sept. 12. According to information provided by Patch, a 13-foot stick-steered boat went out of control in the Intracostal Waterway for unknown reasons, ejecting two fishermen, both of whom were not wearing lifejackets, into the water.

Reports indicated 68-year-old “Fireman John” Joseph Litz and 70-year-old Anthony S. Naismith were aboard the vessel Carolina Skiff when it began spinning out of control around 10:43 a.m. Although the fishermen were apparently able to report the emergency situation, they were thrown into the water for unknown reasons.

Another boater in the area appeared to have witnessed the boat accident reportedly helped retrieve the men from the water. Shortly after, a boat operated by Clearwater Fire and Rescue personnel responded to the site to tend to the victims.

While Naismith did not appear to suffer any injuries in the watercraft accident, responding emergency crews performed CPR on an unresponsive Litz before transporting him to the Seminole Boat Ramp so he could be rushed to Morton Plant Hospital for further medical attention. Sadly, Litz, who worked for the Pinellas Park Fire Department for nearly four decades, died at the medical center.

According statistics provided by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), 668 boat accidents were reported during the year 2010. A total of 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries resulted from those boat crashes and accidents. Furthermore, Florida has the highest number of boating accidents in the nation.

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