Cruise Passenger S.O.S., Maritime Matter of the Week

1 Child Drowns, 1 Hospitalized Following Accident in Norwegian Cruise Line Swimming Pool – Part 2


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

In Part 1 of our blog, our cruise ship accident lawyers discussed the recent tragic drowning of a 4-year-old boy and the near-drowning of a 6-year-old boy onboard the Norwegian Breakaway. Not many details have been provided regarding the accident.

Many accidents on the high seas can be blamed largely on negligence. A cruise line has a duty of reasonable care to protect its passengers and crew members from harm. Cruise lines have a responsibility to protect everyone onboard their ships from danger, and the best way to protect people is to prevent accidents from happening in the first place by improving safety conditions onboard. These two tragic drowning accidents are examples of the dire need to hire lifeguards onboard cruise ships. Yet, it appears that only one major cruise line is employing lifeguards on its ships.

In the year 2014 there are endless resources cruise lines can use to improve safety. Yet, we haven’t seen much of an improvement. In the wake of the recent series of overboard accidents, it’s been blatantly clear that the industry has yet to incorporate radar technology that will detect the instant a passenger or crew member falls from the ship. Though the technology is there, cruise lines seemingly refuse to use it. Why?

The answer usually boils down to money. But while some of these technologies – and hiring trained lifeguards – can be expensive, cruise lines don’t seem to mind spending billions on adding more restaurants, zip liners, pools, and other entertainment features that keep posing greater risks for accidents at sea.

Especially now, when most new cruise ships can hold at least 3,000 passengers, improved safety is a MUST for the cruise industry. In the grand scheme of things, it costs much less to improve safety features and employ trained lifeguards that it will cost to compensate the victims of an accident resulting from a cruise line’s negligence in failing to protect the safety of those onboard.

It seems as though it takes several years of the cruise industry to make a drastic improvement in its safety policies. A recent government report has shown that most cruise lines have yet to fully implement the provisions detailed in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) – a legislation launched in 2010! Of the 15 safety provisions outlined in the bill, only 11 have been implemented by cruise lines. Among those missing? Ironically, a provision that requires improved emergency training.

As far as lifeguards go, this is one of the easiest ways to protect cruise passengers. Drowning accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, and victims don’t even have to be children.

Back in September, it was reported that 41-year-old Michael Ward, better known as Birdie Africa, one of only two people who survived the 1985 MOVE bombing, died after drowning in a Carnival Dream hot tub. Here’s a grown man who wasn’t even swimming in a large or deep pool who suffered a tragic drowning accident. This shows us that anyone can be a victim of a drowning.

Statistics show that drowning accidents can happen without anyone even realizing what’s going on. Mario Vittone, a former U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, wrote an article titled Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, in which he explains that the majority of drowning accidents involving children happen within 25 yards of a parent or guardian.  So, it doesn’t matter whether a child’s parents are nearby, a drowning can still happen right before their very eyes. And as we can see, it can happen to the adults themselves.

The signs of drowning are subtle, but a trained lifeguard knows exactly what to look for and how to respond to the situation. Yet, most cruise lines will not employ them.

There have been hundreds of accidents and fatalities within the cruise industry and the vast majority can be attributed to negligence. It is the cruise line’s responsibility to protect everyone onboard from harm to the best of their ability and within reason. And there is nothing reasonable about not hiring lifeguards.

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