Costa Concordia Still Claiming Victims

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Costa CruisesIt’s been a little over two years since the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy, leading to the deaths of 32 individuals. And still, the ill-fated ship continues to claim lives. Reports have shown that a diver working on the Concordia salvage operation died following a serious underwater accident. The victim cut his leg on a metal sheeting while working nearly 10 feet below the surface and sadly, bled to death.

Reports on the incident featured on Cruise Critic named the victim as Franco Moreno, a 41-year-old diver from Spain who was part of the Titan Micoperi dive team, tasked with resurfacing the Concordia to facilitate its tow from the underwater grave it has rested upon since January 13, 2012, a massive undertaking known as “The Parbuckling Project”. The team was working on attaching floatation tanks beneath the starboard side of the Concordia when the tragic accident occurred.

Though Moreno’s diving partner was at the scene of the accident and helped him reach paramedics at the project’s headquarters, the injuries were too severe. Moreno was airlifted to an area hospital, but later died from his injuries.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time the Concordia’s salvage project has resulted in an accident. Moreno’s was the first fatal accident, but two other workers have previously been injured. The first accident occurred last April, when a crew member fell backwards and suffered a head injury and collarbone fracture. Then, just one month later, another crew member was hospitalized while carrying out drilling operations.

The diving accident is currently being investigated, and until then, we won’t know if any form of negligence on the project operators or Costa Crociere’s, the owner of the Concordia, part may have contributed to the incident.

Following the 2012 Concordia crash, Costa Crociere, the captain of the Concordia, Francesco Schettino, and several crew members were accused of playing a role in the accident. However, only Schettino remains as a suspect in the ongoing trial and is being accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship.

On the day of the accident, Schettino made a last minute call to divert the ship off its original course in order to perform a maneuver known as a salute. The salute brings the ship close to shore, but is not commonly practiced anymore. In the process of attempting the salute, the Concordia crashed into a huge rock beneath the surface of the water, creating a giant gash in the vessel’s hull and ultimately causing the ship to capsize.

Had the evacuation procedure been carried out more efficiently, perhaps no lives would have been lost on the night of the accident. However, survivors recount a nightmarish experience following the collision, with crew members scrambling around, unable to properly communicate with one another.

This lack of efficiency led maritime authorities to question the safety practices within the cruise industry and the liberal actions captains can take without requiring the cruise line’s authorization. The enactment of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 details passenger vessel security and safety requirements for the industry, but a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that only 11 of the 15 provisions have actually been implemented, including improved evacuation training for crew members following a serious cruise ship accident.

Our cruise lawyers blogged about the matter, which you can read more about in our two-part series: Report Shows Cruise Industry Has Yet to Fully Implement Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act Provisions Part 1 and Part 2.

The cruise industry’s approach to safety has been questioned for years, but it wasn’t until the Costa Concordia accident that the industry’s practices have been looked at with greater scrutiny. Since then, it seems as though cruise ship accidents have been occurring with greater frequency, which in one sense is accurate, but in another sense, is also the result of increased media attention.

Though a tragic accident, the Costa Concordia has served as a lesson for maritime authorities to take greater action to regulate matters in the cruise industry, which are largely out of the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities. Since most cruise lines are registered in foreign ports and fly foreign flags (mostly Caribbean nations), they are held accountable under those countries’ governments, which are often much more lax about maritime rules and safety protocols than the U.S. or Europe.

Now, the U.S. government is stepping in to hopefully reduce accidents from occurring within the industry. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller has called for greater transparency with cruise lines when it comes to reporting accidents and crimes, which until now, has been poor. For as long as our firm can remember, cruise lines have failed to fully disclose all information regarding incidents onboard ships, which has led the public to believe they have a false sense of safety when cruising.

Mandating the release of accurate reports allows not only the public to be aware of what’s really happening on the high seas and take action to protect themselves and keep a greater lookout for signs of danger when onboard a ship, but also helps the cruise lines overall. Knowing they have to fully disclose incidents, which can come back to haunt the lines if the incidents are caused – even in small part – by their own negligence in failing to establishing safety protocols, hopefully will lead the cruise lines to improve their policies in order to avoid public scrutiny and negative press.

Our condolences go out to the diving victim’s loved ones.  If the incident occurred in the U.S., or the company involved has a U.S. base of operations, then the  victim’s family would likely be able to file a claim under the Jones Act.  Of course, this tragic incident took place in Italy, and as such,  the claim would likely need to be filed in Italy.