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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Injury & Death

Coronavirus (COVID-19) … What did the Cruise Lines Know?  When?  And, Can Cruise Lines Be Held Accountable?  A Maritime Lawyer’s Analysis. 

Of late, cruise ships have been referred to as “floating petri dishes” following numerous shipboard outbreaks of Coronavirus/ COVID-19.  This article will examine: to what extent the cruise industry contributed to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, what the cruise industry knew and when, and if certain cruise lines can be held liable to cruise passengers and crewmembers for serious illness and in certain instances death from contracting COVID-19 while traveling on a cruise ship.

First Shocking Fact: During February–March 2020, COVID-19 outbreaks associated with three cruise ship voyages accounted for more than 800 laboratory-confirmed cases among passengers and crew according to the US Centers for disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC’s”) March 23, 2020 article.  Transmission occurred across multiple voyages from ship to ship by crew members, both crew and cruise passengers were affected and at least 10 deaths resulted involving crew and passengers who contracted COVID-19 while sailing or working aboard these cruise ships.  A more recent article in Bloomberg News  provides that after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess, “[a]t least seven more of [Carnival’s cruise ships or brand name lines] at sea have become virus hot spots, resulting in more than 1,500 positive infections and at least 39 fatalities.”

Bahamas cruise On October 19, 2018, Christopher McGrory, a 29-year old man from Palm Beach County, fell on a cruise ship and landed on a lower deck, suffering fatal injuries. McGrory was traveling aboard Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica celebrating his bachelor party. The ship was cruising from the Port of Palm Beach to Freeport in the Bahamas.  McGrory was set to marry his partner, Jessica Arnett, on December 1st.

According to reports, other passengers on the cruise ship heard a “code blue” alert announced over the ship’s intercom.  “Code blue” signals a medical emergency.  Passengers then gathered around a stairway and reported seeing “pools and pools of blood.”

McGrory was rushed to St Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Riviera Beach Fire-Rescue, where he was pronounced dead. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line confirmed a passenger had been evacuated by authorities due to a medical emergency.

cruise ship medical monitorRecently, on August 29, 2018, Mr. Jerry Ho brought an action against Royal Caribbean Cruises in the Florida Southern District Court for their purported failure to provide lifesaving medical care (or in the alternative, to secure a timely medevac) to his wife.  According to the filed complaint, Ho alleges that the negligence of crew aboard the cruise line in responding to his wife’s need for immediate medical care led to her eventual death by congestive heart failure.

The facts alleged in the complaint certainly paint a concerning picture of crew member negligence and inadequate facilities.

In June 2017, Ho and his wife, Amy Tong, were traveling aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas, on a route taking them along the southern European coastline.  The ship was berthed in Naples, Italy when Tong told her husband that she was having difficulty breathing.  Tong suffered from lupus, though the condition had been managed appropriately for the lifetime of the disease.  Still, the risk of heart failure was sufficiently concerning to Ho and Tong that the couple made their way to the on-board medical facilities without delay.

cruise ship bunk bedsOn January 25, 2018, while sailing aboard the Carnival Ecstasy with other family members, Eric Ewing decided to relax in his cabin and have a bite to eat.  Eric began to eat a slice of pizza while he sat comfortably on the edge of his bed. Per a Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dated April 25, 2018, suddenly and without warning, the upper bunk within his cabin came crashing down on Eric’s head. Per an announcement over the PA system, the Carnival Ecstasy had diverted off course to provide emergency medical care for a passenger having a medical emergency.  Eric noticed the vessel was no longer riding as smoothly after the change of course. Eric has now been diagnosed with a closed head traumatic brain injury, which now nine months later is causing him debilitating and life altering pain, and diminished cognitive abilities.

Eric is an honorably discharged U.S.M.C. veteran, father of two and was traveling aboard the Carnival Ecstasy with several direct and extended family members. Eric had sailed with Carnival on 27 occasions before the subject cruise and had earned the distinction of being a Platinum cruiser with Carnival.  Eric’s cabin, very similar to the above picture, had been configured by cruise staff to accommodate his wheelchair bound mother, who he and his family made it a point of traveling with as frequent as possible.  Unfortunately, and on the eve of the Cruise, Eric’s mother was unable to join her family on the cruise. Ordinarily, these cabins are configured with twin beds on each side and a nightstand between the beds.  An upper bunk is stowed above each lower bed and when not in use is folded up into the walls and out of the way.  If more than two passengers stay in a cabin, a Cabin Steward generally deploy or lowers any needed upper bunk while the room’s occupants are at dinner.  That way any needed upper bunk is ready and available for use after the cabin’s occupants return from dinner.  Conversely, the Cabin Steward folds up or raises any upper bunk the following morning while the cabin’s occupants are at breakfast.

Some things are very clear about this most unfortunate event, which has tragically robbed Eric of the life he once enjoyed.  Passengers don’t lower or raise upper bunks within their cabins aboard Carnival’s vessels.  In fact, passengers can’t.  The bunks have a locking mechanism that requires a special locking/unlocking tool or wrench.  Only Carnival personnel have the tool.  Without the tool, upper bunks cannot be unlocked and lowered at least when they are raised and locked in place when stowed.

cruise shipLast week, on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at roughly 6:15PM EST, a 74-year old woman who was a passenger traveling aboard Carnival Horizon — operated by the global cruise line giant, Carnival Cruises — was medevaced due to serious chest pains.  Personnel aboard Carnival Horizon were reportedly concerned that the chest pains indicated a possible heart issue, thus necessitating a medevac to a higher-level medical facility capable of treating the passenger.

According to reports, Carnival Horizon was just moving past Lower Manhattan when the passenger suffered the chest pains at-issue.  Crew notified Coast Guard watchstanders in the city at 5:45PM, and coordinated with relevant rescue authorities in the Coast Guard, Fire Department, and Police Department.

Though details are relatively sparse, it appears that rescue authorities were initially unsure about whether to conduct an airlift or to perform the medevac using a rescue boat.  Early reports indicate that the decision was made to send an NYPD Harbor Unit rescue boat after authorities determined that a helicopter could not be landed on the deck of the vessel.  This is not an uncommon problem aboard Cruise Ship’s.  In a recent case handled by Brais Law Firm a cruise vessel was not prepared to receive the helicopter and after running low on fuel the helicopter had to return to base, necessitating the USCG to send a second helicopter to evacuate a passenger in distress.

Zip Line The honeymoon of Israeli newlyweds, Egael Tishman, 24, and Shif Fanken, 27, came to a tragic end when the couple collided during a zip line excursion.  The couple was celebrating their honeymoon aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Allure of the Seas, which set sail from Fort Lauderdale on July 1st.  On Thursday, July 5th, while participating in a zip line excursion in Roatan, Honduras, the wife got stuck near the middle of the cable. Her husband came sliding down the zip line behind her, smashing into her.

The couple sustained severe injuries, including broken ribs.  They were taken to a local hospital, where the husband passed away. The wife was taken by air to a hospital in the United States Friday morning, where she underwent surgery and is reported to be in stable condition.

Honduran officials are investigating to determine the cause of the incident.  Zip line courses in the United States typically must comply with minimal safety standard.  Two well recognized standards include the Association for Challenge Course Technology (“ACCT”) and the American Society for Testing Materials International (“ASTM”).  Royal Caribbean utilizes a bid process by which they claim to vet shoreside excursion companies providing recreational activities advertised by the Cruise Line.  This bid process includes a trifecta of documents that reportedly must be completed every year.  These documents include: a Tour Operating & Basic Tour Information Profile, Universal Bid Template and Tour Operator Investment Profile.  These documents generally provide a description of the excursion and in the case of a zip line, sometimes the minimal safety standards to which the course was designed and built.

Harmony-of-the-seas-golf-trip-fall-injury-202x300Our cruise passenger trip and fall injury attorneys have been retained by a woman who suffered a significant hand injury while aboard the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas cruise ship.  Our client was playing miniature golf when she tripped and fell over a raise on the course path which was obscured by poor lighting.  We are asking if any knows of other trip and falls on Royal Caribbean cruise ship’s miniature golf courses to better assist our client.  If you tripped, or witnessed a trip and fall, aboard the Harmony of the Seas or any Royal Caribbean ship’s mini golf course, please contact our law firm.

lifeguard-20343192-300x200Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean announced its implementation of a new water safety program fleet wide starting with Oasis of the Seas.  The program includes stationing of lifeguards trained by StarGuard Elite at every pool including Solarium, the adult-only area.  RCL will also offer a 15-minute water safety presentation during the embarkation-day open house session for its youth program, Adventure Ocean.

Additionally, the new program will include the introduction of water safety instruction signs throughout the ships, which include signage around pool areas and cabins encouraging parents to use the life jackets made available to children ages 4-12 since late 2015.

Amid mounting pressure, Norwegian Cruise Line announced last week its decision to hire lifeguards to its four largest ships—Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Epic by summer, 2017.  Norwegian expects to add lifeguards fleetwide by March, 2018.

Cruise-Pool-Drowing.jpgThe Florida Board Certified Maritime Attorneys of Brais Law Firm have been retained by the family of a child who died from complications caused by a near drowning incident aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas cruise ship. We are honored to have the opportunity to help this family in their time of need.

The incident occurred on June 30, 2016 as the Anthem of the Seas was leaving the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The child, along with his brother and other children, entered into the children’s pool located in the H20 Zone on the 14th deck. A cruise ship attendant was posted within the H20 zone and appeared to be looking after the children. Though there was a cruise ship attendant in the area, the child was allowed to take off his life jacket, leave the children’s area and enter the much deeper main pool. The child, who could not swim, sank to the bottom and was underwater for an estimated eight to ten minutes. He was removed from the water and shipboard medical staff preformed resuscitation efforts. A pulse was established and the child was medevaced by the Coast Guard to Staten Island University Hospital in New York. Tragically, the boy died two days later.
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Degloving Injury Royal Caribbean Zip Line Accident.jpgThe cruise passenger injury lawyers of Brais Law Firm have filed lawsuit on behalf of a Texas woman against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and a Honduran shore excursion operator for injuries sustained while participating in a zip-line excursion offered, advertised and marketed by the cruise line on its website.

The Complaint alleges that on the morning of September 3, 2015, our client paid for and participated in a Royal Caribbean advertised zip lining excursion offered by MC Tours at Roatan, Honduras. While zip lining from one platform to the other, our client followed the safety briefing by crossing her legs and lifting them as high as she could. Court papers assert that because there was too much slack in the line, when our client reached the other platform she violently struck her legs on to the front of the platform suffering severe injuries. The platform consisted of essentially a sheet of unpadded wood. Upon impact, the exposed wooden platform ripped the skin off her lower legs leaving bone, tendons and muscle exposed. Our client had open wounds on both lower legs, soft tissue loss measuring 18 x 32 cm on the left leg and 14 x 7 cm on the right leg. She underwent 11 operations consisting of incision, debridement and drainage procedures with wound vac exchanges and eventually skin grafts from skin taken from her left thigh.
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