Yesterday, our maritime accident lawyers reported on the tragic death of a Cunard cruise ship crew member. We don’t have much information regarding the circumstances surrounding the seafarer’s death, but according to the luxury cruise line, the 23-year-old Filipino worker died of “natural causes.”
Now, this bit of information is a little unsettling. How can a 23-year-old die of natural causes, unless he had a pre-existing medical condition. If that was the case, shouldn’t Cunard have been aware of it? Did the crew member himself know of this possible affliction?
There seems to be much more to this story than meets the eye, but hopefully time will reveal further details to confirm whether or not the death was an accident. But in the wake of this tragedy, another cruise ship crew member has been killed and this time, the line can’t blame (or hide behind) “natural causes.”
According to news reports, a Carnival Conquest crew member was killed while performing maintenance work on the exterior of the vessel while it was docked in its home port of New Orleans. A spokesperson for the line explained the accident happened this weekend while the crew member was on a lift (also known as a “cherry picker”). The victim allegedly became trapped between the lift and lifeboat platform and died as a result of his injuries.
Carnival issued a statement regarding the crew member’s fatal accident, explaining that the Conquest’s own medical team – along with local paramedics – rushed to help the worker but could not save him. The victim, whose name has not yet been released, died Sunday.
So far, we have not one, but TWO crew member deaths this weekend, both on Carnival Corp.-owned vessels. Something doesn’t seem right. Either it was pure coincidence – which is almost never the case – or these tragic accidents were the result of a cruise company that is seriously lacking in the safety department.
We don’t know exactly how many times Carnival Corp. lines have been in the news recently, all because of accidents that have left victims injured or killed. The media tends to focus more on accidents involving passengers, but tragedies involving cruise ship crew members are also very common.
With both guests and workers, it’s important cruise lines never stray from upholding the highest safety standards possible to ensure everyone onboard a ship is safe from harm. There are many protocols lines can uphold that will improve the odds of avoiding injury and death on the high seas or in port, yet it seems that with every day that passes, more accidents are taking place and cruise lines are caring less.
This year started off on shaky ground for Carnival Corp. with the highly publicized fire onboard the Carnival Triumph that left nearly 4,000 people stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico amidst deplorable conditions. Passengers (and crew members) had barely anything to eat, were unable to use toilets because they were all clogged and had to slosh through overflowing waste and sewage dripping from deck to deck.
That’s how the year kicked off for Carnival, but last year, an even worse accident took place involving another subsidiary of Carnival Corp., Costa Cruises. The capsizing of the Costa Concordia in January, 2012 represented what many are calling the downfall of the “Carnival Empire.”
Carnival Corp., whose largest line Carnival Cruise Line has infamously been known as “The Fun Ship” for many years, appears to have lost its magical touch with each subsequent accident. Now, it’s understandable that the world’s largest cruise company would have the most number of accidents, but enough is enough.
The largest cruise company should also have the most funds available – funds which should be allocated to improving safety fleet wide. Yet, even following the Triumph fire when Carnival claimed it would be undergoing a massive, multimillion-dollar safety upgrade project, we still see dozens of accidents and crimes occur each month. When will they end? What more has to happen before Carnival makes good on its promises to improve safety for both passengers and crew members?
With our years of experience in maritime law, our attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. know very well that the cruise industry is more focused on making money than spending it – especially when it comes to spending it on safety enhancement efforts. Yet, if the cruise lines were smart about this, they would know that a safety upgrade is much less costly than a negligence settlement or the negative reputation that comes with it.
The vast majority of cruise ship accidents can be avoided if the lines would work a little harder at protecting those onboard from harm. Lines could better train crew members on how to handle emergency situations. Concordia survivors recounted how crews were frantic and unable to communicate properly during the ship’s evacuation.
It’s also important cruise lines invest in technology that will help prevent accidents and save victims in the event that a tragedy does occur. One way to do so is for ships to install infrared detection devices that can locate an overboard victim in the dark. Over 200 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the past decade and only a handful – if that much – have been rescued. The reason is because most overboard accidents occur at night when victims can’t be spotted falling or struggling in the waters. The infrared technology would be able to detect the heat emitted by the victim, allowing the cruise line to find and rescue the victim much more efficiently.
Cruise lines can also work on how they protect crew members from harm. The Conquest crew member who died this weekend may have been saved had other workers been on the lift or had a team of crew members been on the scene to monitor his work. We don’t know how the worker became trapped, but if authorities discover that there was an equipment problem, Carnival will likely be at least partially responsible for the incident.
All cruise ship equipment should be evaluated on a daily basis to protect workers from dangerous situations, like the one experienced by the crew member while in port. Granted, freak accidents do occur and sometimes nothing can be done to prevent them, but lines can at least do everything in their power to provide the safest possible work environment for their crews.
There are endless more ways in which the cruise industry can take care of both passengers and crew members, and if we can think them up, it’s very likely the industry can too. We’re just waiting for the day when lines will make a serious effort and commit to improving safety features and protocols on their ships. The sooner the better, but unfortunately, it seems as though the industry has a greater focus on improving entertainment options than on keeping guests and workers safe from harm.