Usually, our maritime accident lawyers are talking about victims who have gone overboard and have been met with antagonism from the cruise line they were onboard or have been left at sea in danger after rescue operators have failed to offer assistance. Many overboard victims deserve compensation for their pain and suffering, especially when the incident was the result of a cruise company’s own negligence, another boater’s negligent or wrongful actions or equipment failure that should have been accounted for. However, a recent rescue of three overboard victims has unveiled some unlikely heroes –two cruise passengers.
Roy Nagy and his wife, Kendra, were onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise last September and wanted to hear the sound of the waves and wind while falling asleep when they awoke at 4 a.m., not to peaceful sounds, but to cries for help. The Nagys remember hearing people screaming for help and whistling and went out to their balcony to see what was going on. Had they not left their balcony door open than night to hear the waves, they would have probably never been able to hear the victims or save them.
When the Nagys went out to their balcony, it was pitch black. They couldn’t see anything except the dark waters they were sailing past on the way toward St. Martin, but could hear several people screaming. As the ship kept getting closer to the island, the screams started to become softer, which is when the couple realized that there had been an overboard accident.
Mr. Nagy then contacted the vessel’s main desk and, much to our surprise, the captain sounded an alarm regarding the overboard passengers and stopped the ship immediately. A lifeboat was then sent out to search the waters for the victims and lo and behold, the boat came back with three male victims who had been struggling to stay afloat for nearly 10 hours.
According to reports, the crew members who had gone to look for the victims shined a light out in the darkness and found one of the victims waving his arms and screaming for help. The victims were rescued, but weren’t in good shape so they were taken to the ship’s medical quarters for treatment and given food and water. They had been on a speedboat which capsized off the coast of St. Thomas while they were on the way to St. Croix. None of the victims were wearing life jackets, a critical mistake.
It is a miracle the victims even survived this long without any help. Our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have stressed the importance of wearing life jackets time and time again because of the possibility of accidents at sea, like this one. Anytime a vessel is involved in an accident, passengers may be thrown out into the waters with injuries or may even be unconscious. A life jacket is the only thing that can save a victim’s life while waiting for a rescue team.
We don’t know much about the circumstances surrounding the boating accident, but what we do know is that the Nagys are officially heroes. Because of an unexpected turn of events, they were able to hear the victims’ cries and help ensure they were rescued.
The Nagys were very happy they were able to help the victims and were official celebrities for the rest of their cruise vacation. The victims thanked the Nagys the next morning for their help and the heroes were even invited to spend some time with the captain, who also thanked them for their efforts. According to the captain, the victims would not have survived had the Nagys not alerted cruise authorities of their screams.
A few months ago, our maritime law firm represented another overboard victim who fell from her balcony cabin. Sarah Alexandra Badley Kirby was having fun with her fiancé and best friend onboard the Carnival Destiny back in October, 2012 when the unthinkable happened. Kirby, who was overserved alcoholic beverages by a cruise ship bartender, fell from her balcony stateroom in the middle of the night, and her friend witnessed her disappearance from the balcony for their room. When her friend went to alert cruise officials of what happened, officials refused to stop the vessel, despite her eyewitness account of the overboard accident. Her friend had gone out to the balcony and a few minutes later she was no longer on the balcony. Since she did not come back into the room, that only left the possibility that she fell over board.
It wasn’t until two hours after the accident that the ship was finally turned around and Kirby was rescued. When asked why they didn’t follow protocol when a passenger goes overboard, which involves sounding an alarm and stopping the vessel, cruise crew members merely shrugged off the matter and explained they had to investigate the ship first. Kirby is, sadly, one of the lucky few who have survived overboard accidents. Since 1995, 207 people have fallen overboard from cruise ships and ferries, but only a handful have survived. Kirby was amidst shark-infested waters so it’s even more shocking that she was able to stay afloat, especially after hurting herself during the fall.
We applaud Royal Caribbean’s quick efforts in launching an investigation for the victims, who weren’t even passengers onboard the ship. This is exactly how all cruise lines should behave in the event of an emergency, but sadly, it is unusual to find a cruise ship that will actually act quickly when someone is in danger.
Who can forget the five miserable days Carnival Triumph passengers suffered out at sea following the vessel’s fire back in February after Carnival refused to send another ship out to transfer passengers or to send a helicopter to airlift victims. And in 2012, the Costa Concordia crash went down in history as one of the most horrid capsizing accidents in history. What’s worse was the fact that survivors reported how crew members were frantically running around, unable to communicate with one another during the evacuation process.
It is simply unacceptable for a cruise line to take their time when an overboard accident is reported. Every second counts when trying to save a victim, especially if the accident takes place at night, when waters are pitch black.
All cruise lines should have infrared technology to detect overboard victims, but alas, the cruise industry is busy spending money on improving entertainment options as opposed to improving safety for passengers and crew members. Hopefully other lines can learn from what happened with this particular accident and will work harder to help victims in distress.