Coast Guard Rescues Sick Cruise Ship Passenger

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

To no one’s surprise, Carnival Cruise Line is in the media once again, but at least this time, the incident in question was not the fault of any crew member’s negligence or faulty equipment. This time, the incident involved a life or death situation in which a sick passenger had to be evacuated from a Carnival vessel and ship authorities acted quickly to try and save the passenger’s life.

The Coast Guard came to the rescue of a cruise ship passenger who was in dire need of medical assistance. CG responders medevaced a 50-year-old passenger from the Carnival Splendor on Saturday while the ship was roughly 150 miles east of Cape Lookout, N.C.

A medical representative aboard the Splendor contacted Coast Guard watchstanders at around 8 p.m. reporting a male passenger had suffered a heart attack and was in need of superior medical attention. Once the Coast Guard was informed, a team from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., dispatched a rescue crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules aircraft to assist the passenger in need.

“The Hercules is launched as a safety asset to provide cover for the Jayhawk crew when they’re conducting search and rescue cases far from shore,” said Lt. Zach Huff, the operations duty officer and a Hercules pilot. “The Hercules crew uses their weather radar and relays that information to the helicopter for safe navigation. They’re also able to locate the ship, conduct a safety brief with the ship’s crew prior to the helicopter’s arrival and vector in the Jayhawk.”

Coast Guard Sector North Carolina watchstanders guided the Hercules crew to the Splendor, who then established communications with the ship’s crew. Once the Jayhawk team arrived, CG crews hoisted the sick passenger and a nurse into the helicopter and transported them to the air station. There, a standby crew took over and flew the man and nurse to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Although the identity of the cruise ship passenger has not been revealed, he is said to be in stable condition.

One of the CG officers aboard the Jayhawk commented on the rescue mission and was glad he was able to help the passenger in need.

“I got to help someone today,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Scheren, rescue swimmer aboard the Jayhawk. “This is why I joined the service. You spend so long training, hearing instructors yell ‘so others may live,’ it’s nice to really feel that you’re living your creed.”

Many cruise passengers owe their lives to the swift action of Coast Guard rescue teams. Although most cruise ships have medical quarters onboard, none are expansive enough to be equipped with the tools that are needed to treat passengers who suffer more than just minimal cuts and scrapes.

When a passenger is reported to be in critical condition or who needs more extensive medical services, a ship’s crew must act quickly to procure assistance for the patient. The first step is to notify the Coast Guard, who will then, as seen with this case, arrive at the scene of the emergency and evacuate the passenger, transporting them to the nearest hospital so they can obtain the medical care they need.

If a cruise ship staff fails to obtain help for a sick or injured passenger as quickly as is possible and the passenger suffers further complications as a result, then the victim may be able to file a case against the line for negligence and recover damages for their pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, there are many times in which cruise lines fail to follow proper protocol to help passengers in need or even contribute to the illness or injury. Because cruise lines must maintain a safe environment onboard all the vessels in their fleet and must follow specific guidelines to obtain medical help in the event of an emergency, any time a ship’s crew diverts from their prescribed course of action and cause greater harm to the patient, they may be found at least partially responsible for any further medical complications and victims would be wise to consult with a cruise passenger attorney for help in filing a claim.