Elderly Passenger Falls Overboard Sun Princess, Search Called Off

This week, an elderly male passenger in his 80’s went missing from the Sun Princess, sparking a search and rescue operation that was ultimately called off. The ship departed Fremantle in Western Australia on May 14th and was half way through a 12-day voyage to Kuala Lumpur, when the man overboard alarms were sounded and passengers were alerted to the problem. According to reports, the ship turned around in an attempt to search for the missing passenger. However, it took one hour for the vessel to return to the location where the man went overboard, which was roughly 100 nautical miles southeast of Singapore.

After hours of thorough investigation without any promising leads, rescue teams made the difficult decision to call off the search. In a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines, it is now believed that the man may have intentionally gone overboard.

In the wake of this tragedy, we send our deepest condolences to the family of the man as they navigate this challenging emotional time.

Unfortunately, this is not the first overboard accident that has occurred this year. Last month, no less than three people are believed to have ended their lives by jumping from their cruise ship. The sheer number and recent uptick in frequency leads us to wonder what can be done to better support and assist cruise passengers who may be considering ending their lives?

More Support Needed for Cruise Passengers

As it turns out, many cruise ships do not have psychologists or professionally-trained counselors to help passengers who may be in emotional distress. The lack of support available for passengers going through a particularly difficult or dark time could be one factor that contributes to the prevalence of overboard accidents.

However, the cruise lines refusal to accept and invest in available technology is also a contributing factor.  Man Overboard Detection Systems have been around for years, yet cruise lines have been resisting the installation of this technology claiming it was not feasible or practical.   Man Overboard Detection Systems will alert the cruise lines when a man overboard situation first occurs rather than wait until it is discovered and a man over board alert is called.  Additionally, it seems as though the speed with which searches are started could also be addressed, so that there is a greater chance of finding the missing person.

The good news is that the, International Standards Organization has developed an internationally agreed technical specification for Man Overboard Systems.  Unfortunately it may take years to have these standards formally implemented and it is unlikely that cruise lines will voluntarily install the lifesaving safety measures.

Ultimately, there are a variety of factors at play when it comes to improving the methods by which cruise lines protect their passengers and crew. While no one can ever anticipate when an individual will fall or jump overboard, the industry can be better prepared for the event, and treat it as a true emergency.

Our Maritime Lawyers Can Help

At Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., we have experience with a wide range of cruise accident and injury cases, including overboard accidents. With over 100 years of combined experience, you can trust that the maritime lawyers on our team are more than prepared to help you handle your case.

No matter the size of scope of your legal concern, when you work with our distinguished team, you will be in good hands. So if you have questions about your situation and are seeking advice that you can trust, do not hesitate to contact us.