One of the best parts about cruising is the ability to participate in shore excursions. Shore excursions can include a range of activities for all tastes, from sightseeing tours to adventurous outings like snorkeling. Many of these excursions can be purchased on board a ship, and are sponsored by cruise lines. This can lead cruise passengers to believe that the tour operators are trustworthy and safe. Unfortunately, safety during shore excursions isn’t as consistent or strict as cruisers might believe them to be – something our cruise ship accident lawyers, sadly, know all too well.
Several shore excursion operators do not have the proper licensing to operate their tours, nor do they uphold stringent safety practices to reduce the risk of injuries to cruise passengers. Some tour operators do not maintain their equipment in safe working order, which can lead those engaging in excursions to suffer serious injuries or even death. What’s even more appalling is the fact that oftentimes, cruise lines will deny accountability for accidents that occur to passengers during shore excursions. Cruise lines will claim that they did not have any actual or legally binding affiliation to the tour operator, leaving victims to fend for themselves if they wish to take legal action against the operator.
Sadly, these may be the obstacles that the family of a recent shore excursion accident victim may have to face following the death of their loved one.
According to news reports, a cruise passenger was killed while participating in a shore excursion in Puerto Rico on October 15. The victim, a 56-year-old female cruise passenger named Marsha Boekeloo, died after falling around 20 feet during a zip lining excursion at the Hacienda Campo Rico outside of San Juan. Boekeloo was transported to a local hospital following complaints of chest pain and inability to move her legs. She died at the hospital just a few hours later.
News sources explained that the victim was one of 24 cruise passengers who had been participating in the zip line excursion. The tour operator involved in the incident was Ecoquest Adventures & Tours, however, it is not clear what cruise ship the victim was traveling aboard. The cause of the victim’s fall wasn’t revealed either.
Owner Ivan Purcell told news reporters that the Hacienda Campo Park would be closed until an investigation into the death would be finalized.
Purcell also contended that the park was certified by the Illinois-based Association for Challenge Course Technology, undergoes regular inspections, and claimed that all guides running the tours are “trained in first aid, rescue and risk management.”
Yet, James Borishade, executive director of the Association for Challenge Course Technology, stated otherwise. In a phone interview, Borishade explained that Purcell’s membership with the association had actually expired last year. He also noted that adventure parks are supposed to be thoroughly inspected by a third-party inspection each year, but there aren’t any agencies assigned to parks and responsible for ensuring that these inspections actually occur.
While zip lining is among the most popular types of shore excursion activities for cruisers, they are also some of the most dangerous. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, zip line accident injuries have increased across the United States. Approximately 17,000 people suffered injuries related to zip lining excursions between 1997 and 2012. Several of the operators running zip line excursions are amateur companies who may not be completely aware of the safety regulations required to run such adventures, may not be operating in areas where there are actual laws in place to regulate safety practices, or, even if there are safety laws in place, operators may choose to ignore them.
Shore excursion operations across the world are highly unregulated, which can lead to serious or fatal injuries, like the one recently suffered by Boekeloo. Though cruise lines have a responsibility to protect their passengers – both aboard a ship and offshore while participating in a cruise-sponsored shore excursion – cruise lines don’t usually take the time to thoroughly review a tour operator’s background or safety practices to ensure they are conducting excursions in the safest way possible.
Though nothing can erase the pain associated with a serious accident, victims who have been injured in any type of cruise ship shore excursion accident – as well as loved ones of anyone killed during a shore excursion –have the right to speak to a cruise ship accident attorney to discuss their options in filing a claim and may possibly recover damages pertaining to the incident.