Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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.

cruise ship poolAre you contemplating embarking on a cruise ship vacation? Be aware that accidents on cruise ships seem to happen with regularity. Often times the accident may be life threatening or even fatal. A common type of accident on cruise ships is drowning. Even though this is a common tragedy, cruise ships fail to hire lifeguards to monitor cruise ship swimming areas. As a matter of fact, the only cruise line that hires lifeguards is the Disney Cruise line.       

Just recently, a 4-year-old child almost drowned in a cruise ship wave pool. He was a passenger of the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The cruise ship had just departed from Port Everglades, when unbeknownst to his mother, the boy entered the wave pool. The young child was then “swept away.” It was reported that he was below water for over six minutes. Another passenger spotted the drowning child. This accident prompted the ship to return to Port Everglades. The young child, in critical condition, was rushed to a nearby hospital. This accident prompted additional demands for lifeguards on all cruise ships. This demand is echoed by Andrew Coggins, a cruise industry expert. Mr. Coggins maintains that all cruise lines should have lifeguards and all cruise lines should require children wear flotation vests when near the pools.

If you or your loved one were injured on a cruise ship, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney. The Miami maritime lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, PA have the experience and skill need to aggressively take on your case. Contact our attorneys today at 305-371-6000 or via email at info@gslawusa.com to schedule a FREE consultation.    

file0001442567760While the exact details of the accident are still under investigation, what is clear is that a crew member died in a Carnival Ecstasy elevator while passengers caught glimpses of the gruesome scene. The ship was in the last legs of a Caribbean cruise departing from Miami when Florida residents Matt Davis and his wife were walking toward the elevator and noticed it was malfunctioning, only partly open and dripping with a copious amount of blood. When they alerted the cruise ship’s staff, they were told to leave the scene and enter the restaurant.

Miami-Dade police are currently investigating the freak accident that killed electrician Jose Sandoval Opazo, 66, of Liguria, Italy. Carnival Cruise Line has been reluctant to provide many details regarding the incident but do extend their support to the victim and his family. Witnesses of the accident say that crew members told them that Opazo was working either inside or behind the elevator when the elevator came down. If you were injured or lost a loved one aboard a cruise ship consider contacting a Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorney.

Carnival Cruise Line has been fraught with controversy surrounding various catastrophic accidents in recent years. In 2012 the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people. The cause of the accident was the hubris of the ship’s captain who intentionally steered the ship too close to shore. In 2013 the Carnival Triumph caught fire, which knocked out the ship’s power, leaving the cruise stranded for four days without working toilets.

cruise ship pool
While aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, an 8-year-old boy drowned in one of the ship’s swimming pools. The ship named “The Liberty of the Seas” was traveling from Galveston, Texas to Cozumel, Mexico when the tragedy occurred. The child’s body was discovered by one of the passengers and removed from the pool. A member of the ship’s medical team performed CPR on the child for over an hour but was unsuccessful. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a cruise ship accident, consider contacting a Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorney.

Despite the many risks involved with swimming children, most cruise lines do not have lifeguards stationed at their family pools. It is telling that in this situation a passenger and not a cruise ship employee had to be the one to first attempt to rescue the boy from the pool.

While signs are always posted to warn passengers to swim at their own risk, it makes you wonder if that is enough to protect children on cruises. Especially when you consider the scenario of a long cruise where there are many opportunities for a child to be separated from his or her parent and swim unsupervised, the lack of lifeguards is baffling.

gavelIn October, the El Faro cargo ship sailed through the path of Hurricane Joaquin on its way from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. The large waves and heavy winds caused the ship to sink and all 33 crew members died at sea. Now some of the families are coming forward to file wrongful death suits against TOTE Maritime, the owner of the cargo ship. If you were injured or lost a loved one aboard a seagoing vessel, contact a Miami Maritime Accident Attorney.

Eight plaintiffs related to victims of the El Faro disaster are suing TOTE Maritime in Florida for wrongful death, claiming that tragedy could have been avoided. The remaining families have until December 21st to file claims against the shipping company due to a court order.

TOTE Maritime previously tried to block all lawsuits by the victims’ families, claiming that it was not to blame for the incident. The company filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Florida claiming that they exercised due diligence and did everything in their power to make sure the ship was safe and therefore should hold no financial liability for the accident. The court soundly rejected this complaint but agreed to cap the damages at $15 million if the company was not found to be negligent for the disaster.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch of UK Government (MAIB) recently published a report about the drowning of a 29-year-old female passenger in a swimming pool on board Sapphire Princess in the East China Sea. The victim was found floating face down in a swimming pool on board the Sapphire Princess. Despite rescue and resuscitation attempts by passengers and crew, the victim did not survive. In their report, MAIB concluded that the mere usage of a notice board expressing that lifeguards were not on duty and persons using the pools should do so at their own risk was inadequate and failed to sufficiently raise awareness among the passengers about the risks of unsupervised swimming. Our team of Miami cruise ship accident lawyers were saddened to hear about this awful incident when it occurred, but we are not surprised by the MAIB’s findings.

Serious safety issues were also noted by the MAIB team during their investigation, and officials specifically noted that:

  • With no dedicated pool attendants it was left to pool users and bystanders to recognize an emergency and raise an alarm.

Last month, this blog discussed a particularly troubling decision out of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals, wherein the Court found that a cruise ship doctor was not subject to its jurisdiction because the Plaintiff failed to show that the doctor had the “substantial, continuous, and systematic business contacts” necessary for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over him.

Doctor

Last week, our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys read through another incident involving the death of a 72-year-old passenger aboard Carnival’s Sun Princess ship raised allegations of potential medical negligence, and led the Attorney General of Queensland, Australia, to order an investigation into the death.

Cruise passenger Betty Virgo was sailing from Brisbane to New Zealand in November of 2012 when she became ill at dinner on the fifth day of the voyage. Betty Virgo’s daughter, Gayle, who was sailing with her, claimed that the ship’s medical staff refused to allow Betty to stay in the medical bay for observation overnight. Gayle remained with Betty the next day as her condition worsened. When Betty’s breathing became labored, she was taken to the ship’s medical center and died that evening. The ship physician diagnosed “angina” as Betty’s cause of death.

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.

Last month, our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys discussed some of the negative aspects of the ever-increasing size of cruise ships, including the fact that such megaships, by their very nature, have many more areas in which a passenger can become injured.  As mentioned in that post, with more entertainment venues comes a greater risk of injury to passengers, especially when cruises feature options such as on-board surfing and giant waterslides.  Some ships have several gigantic pools that too often go unsupervised by lifeguards.

Blonde Boy Credit

One of the megaships that features such water entertainment options is the Carnival ship Victory, which is 893 feet long and has a capacity for 3,400 passengers and 1,000 crew members. The Victory has three large pools, all that include whirlpools, and a 214-foot-long waterslide. With such a massive amount of space to be supervised, it is no surprise that tragedy struck the Victory when 6-year-old Qwentyn Hunter of Winter Garden, Florida, drowned in one of the pools aboard the ship where no life guards were on duty.

According to a recent CNN story, Hunter was spotted underwater in a mid-ship pool by passengers as the ship was completing the final leg of a four-day journey. A ship DJ saw Hunter struggling in the water and another passenger guest then jumped into the pool to pull the boy out.  A crew member attempted to revive the unconscious boy, but was unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead shortly after.

Several weeks after the disappearance of her daughter from Bahamas-bound cruise ship Allure of the Seas, a grief-stricken mother retained Florida legal counsel to gather facts and ask tough questions of Royal Caribbean International, the ship’s owner. Shortly after the ship left Port Everglades on September 16, Vera Marion’s daughter Ariel fell overboard under as-yet undetermined circumstances. A U.S. Coast Guard effort to find her was discontinued on September 18th. According to an October 3 report in the Sun-Sentinel, when Ariel joined her mother on the cruise from which she would never return, Ariel was happily anticipating the start of a new modeling job that she had just landed.

Vera Marion has since shared with NBC South Florida her conviction that had cruise ship personnel acted promptly on the initial report of Ariel’s fall, Ariel could have been rescued. According to reports, Royal Caribbean International has, in fact, admitted that after ship officials received an urgent call from a passenger who witnessed the fall, instead of undertaking rescue efforts, ship’s security proceeded to take over an hour to review surveillance video for evidence of what had already been reported reliably. Making matters worse, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, it was not notified of the incident until over two hours after Ariel was seen tumbling into the ocean, and for all this time, the Allure of the Seas was sailing full-steam ahead, away from the location of Ariel’s disappearance. Eventually, the Allure of the Seas was stopped and turned around, and the Coast Guard and three nearby ships undertook a search, but these belated gestures were to no avail.

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