Last week, officials from the U.S. Coast Guard made the decision to call off the search for a man who fell overboard while sailing on a Carnival Cruise ship. Security cameras on board the ship recorded 24-year-old Kevin Wellons falling from the 11th deck of the ship while the vessel was sailing near Abaco, Bahamas. The cameras did not record how or why the Warner Robins, Georgia man fell from the Carnival Elation, and only caught his descent into the water.
Wellons fell overboard at about 2:45 a.m. on the morning of February 13, 2017. Wellons’ wife reported him missing to the ship’s authorities after she awoke around 8 a.m. By 11 a.m., the ship had deployed rescue boats, helicopters, and had notified the Coast Guard, but had no luck locating Wellons. The search was called off a week after the accident with Wellons presumed dead.
The Coast Guard states that they do not suspect foul play involved in Wellons’ death, and his presumed drowning was likely an accident. Further investigation will show if the cruise line was negligent in failing to prevent Wellons’ death. If you or a loved one was injured or suffered an accident while on a cruise ship, the Florida cruise ship accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., can help.
How Common Are Overboard Accidents?
On average, about 20 people fall into the water every year while sailing on cruise ships. As the economy recovers and more people begin to take cruises, the number of intentional or accidental overboard falls has steadily increased. In 2015, 27 people went overboard. Cruise ship industry officials estimate that 270 passengers and crew members have fallen from cruise ships since 2000.
Only a very small percentage of the estimated 22 million annual cruise ship passengers will suffer an overboard fall. While some of these falls are accidental, many people who go overboard do so in an attempt to commit suicide. However, a significant number of people who go overboard had no intention of ever ending up in the water.
When a passenger falls overboard, the cruise line has the responsibility to notify the Coast Guard and attempt to rescue that person. Whether or not these attempts are successful will usually depend on how long it takes to notice that a passenger is missing, as well as the height of the fall and the temperature of the water. People who fall from greater distances risk breaking limbs or getting knocked unconscious when they strike the water, increasing the likelihood of drowning. If the passenger survives the fall, he or she may only have a short time before they may succumb to hypothermia. This is more of a danger in cruises in colder waters, like near Alaska, than it is in the warmer waters of the Caribbean.
Safety Measures Don’t Always Protect Passengers
Cruise ships are designed with railings meant to prevent passengers from accidentally falling overboard. These railings are tall enough that they come up to the average person’s upper torso, and will prevent people from tripping and falling over the side.
A railing won’t prevent every accident, especially when passengers have been drinking. Cruise ships are known for overserving guests, and many people view alcohol as an integral part of the cruise experience. Unfortunately, excessive intoxication can lead to bad decisions. Passengers who have accidentally fallen from the ship have been recorded climbing over the railings or even attempting to walk or balance on top of the railings. Alcohol can also exacerbate feelings of depression in cruise passengers, leading to more suicides. For example, one passenger who was rescued after jumping from the ship told the Coast Guard that he had decided to jump after breaking up with his girlfriend and losing thousands of dollars on the ship’s casino. Had he been sober, he probably would not have leapt from the ship.
Get Help After Cruise Ship Injuries
Cruise ship companies have a responsibility to keep their passengers safe—even from themselves. When a person falls overboard because of a poorly designed or broken railing, the cruise line can be held liable. Additionally, the cruise ship company may be responsible if an accident or injury occurs because a passenger was overserved alcohol at a bar on the ship. Finally, if a person does fall overboard, the cruise line may be legally responsible for any injuries if they fail to send help or rescue teams in a timely manner.
At Gerson & Schwartz, our Miami cruise ship lawyers help people from across the country get justice after being injured on a cruise ship. If you were injured on a cruise ship, contact our office today and schedule a free consultation by calling 877-475-2905.