Autistic Man Confirmed Dead After Cruise Ship Overboard Accident

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

On Sunday, December 16 in the evening hours, Luke Renner — a 22-year-old man with autism who was traveling aboard the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship — climbed over the deck rail and jumped off the ship.  According to reports, the overboard accident was not the result of any suicidal tendency.  Instead, it is believed that Luke though he was going for a swim in the ocean.

Luke was with a group of nine other special needs passengers from the Wishes4Me foundation, which is a nonprofit that helps those in the special needs community where he lived (Johns Creek, Georgia).  Three chaperones had the task of supervising the group.  Sadly, Luke was not with the rest of the group when he climbed over the deck rail and went overboard.

Once the Wishes4Me group realized that Luke was missing, they immediately reported the issue to crew members.  Fantasy crew could not find Luke on any of the CCTV security video footage; this may have caused further delays in determining how to move forward.  When the ship arrived at port in Mexico, authorities searched the vessel but found nothing.  It is not clear whether search and rescue personnel deployed to track the route taken by the Fantasy to look for Luke in the water, before the Fantasy arrived at its next port — too late to save Luke.

Carnival has officially stated that they presume Luke is dead.

Though Luke climbed over the deck rail and jumped overboard, his surviving family members might be entitled to sue and recover damages (if the cruise line failed to implement adequate overboard protection systems and coordinate a search and rescue in a timely manner).

Overboard Rescues Must Be Coordinated in a Timely Manner

In the present case, the facts are rather fuzzy at this early stage.

What we do know, however, is that the Wishes4Me group notified Fantasy crew members about the fact that Luke was missing.  The cruise ship continued on to its next destination while crew evaluated the video footage to determine if they could find Luke on-board.  Had the captain exercised additional caution, they could have altered their route to remain in the area and communicated with nearby ships and emergency personnel so that a search and rescue operation could get underway.

Based off the actions of Fantasy crew members, it appears that every possibility for why Luke was missing — aside from the fact that he had gone overboard — was explored and considered.  In fact, when Fantasy arrived in port, Mexican authorities conducted a search for Luke aboard the ship, indicating that crew members still had made a determination that he had fallen overboard.

Had Fantasy stayed in the area it is possible that a timely search and rescue operation could have been coordinated, and Luke’s chances of survival may have been increased.

Automated Man Overboard (MOB) Systems Can Minimize the Risk of Death

Given the confusion that appears to have gripped the crew after Luke went missing, it is clear that a man overboard (MOB) alarm system could have made a big difference in the outcome of this case. MOB systems are increasingly coming into use on cruise ships — an effective MOB system features automated sensors that can identify when a passenger is falling overboard and immediately notifies crew members of the situation at-hand.  With an MOB system in place, crew members do not have to think and evaluate.  They can simply contact authorities, and begin search, and rescue operations for the missing passenger.

We Can Provide Assistance

If your loved one has gone missing after falling overboard while traveling on a cruise ship, you may be entitled to sue the cruise line for significant wrongful death damages as compensation for your losses.  Though in some cases the overboard passenger (or the individuals supervising them) may have contributed to the accident, cruise lines can minimize the risk of harm by installing MOB systems.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience representing cruise ship passengers and their family members in a range of disputes, including those that involve overboard accidents and the negligence that follows.

We are committed to aggressive advocacy on behalf of our maritime and admiralty law clients, as it is our belief that relentless, thorough representation is the key to leveling the playing field in disputes against cruise lines (who benefit from a variety of natural advantages, including financial and industry resources).  This approach has brought us a great deal of success over the years.  Since our founding, we have secured over $200 million in verdicts and negotiated settlements.

Contact our firm today to speak to one of our experienced maritime lawyers about your claims.