Death Aboard Cruise Ship Raises Questions as to Ship’s Duty to Secure Area

A young Clemson University college student died on a cruise ship recently after plunging 2 stories from an upper to a lower deck. The student had climbed a front mast with about 5 other friends, all to observe the sunset.


There are no reports that the student was drinking; in fact, most accounts state that he was just talking about life with friends.

The problem, however, was that he was actually standing in a restricted area, having climbed the ship’s mast, in close proximity to the ship’s radar. When the radar moved, as it often does, it apparently pushed the student off the ledge and onto a running track below, a fall of about 20 feet.

The student was airlifted off the ship to a Miami hospital, where he later died.

Whose Fault is the Accident?

Some reports say that he had gone to the restricted area after seeing others standing there, observing the views. That of course means others, before him, had done just the same thing as he did.

The tragedy brings into question a common issue in injury cases when someone is in an area where they are not permitted to be. Ordinarily, if a passenger makes her way to a restricted area, they are considered a trespasser, and will likely be found responsible for their own injuries.

But in many cases, the borders between areas that are permitted for cruisers and areas that are not, are not so clear. And often, the cruise ship has knowledge that others regularly and routinely make their way into prohibited areas.

A cruise line cannot stand idly by and ignore passengers who make their way into prohibited areas. When a cruise line has reason to know that passengers are going places they should not, the cruise line has a duty to take extra measures to keep passengers out of that area.

What Did Carnival Do to Secure the Area?

If the reports are true that others were observed in the same area watching the views, it begs the question whether Carnival Cruise Lines had made it clear enough that the area was restricted. Were there security guards in the area? Or a physical barrier? A sign? What did it say?

Did the cruise line routinely and systematically force passengers out of the area when they were observed there? If not, the cruise line hay have tacitly consented to the passenger’s usage of the area. A failure to enforce a rule by the cruise ship can easily be interpreted by unsuspecting passengers that no rule exists.

Interestingly, Carnival actually said after the accident that the area was “restricted,” whatever that means. It surely doesn’t give much confidence that the area was secured, blocked off, or that any meaningful warnings were placed. “Prohibited” would be a more encouraging word.

Surely, it is ill advised to climb the mast of a cruise ship. However, the cruise lines are well aware that they carry passengers of all kinds—including young, curious ones, eager to get a view of the landscape. When the cruise line knows that passengers are risking their lives to do that, there is a heightened obligation to take security measures to protect those passengers.

If you’re injured at sea or on a cruise for any reason, don’t guess who is at fault. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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