Our cruise accident lawyers here at LM&W have come to learn of a tragic accident involving a Disney Cruise Line passenger. According to news reports, the victim, a Disney Wonder passenger, died on February 26 after suffering a drowning accident in Castaway Cay, a private island owned by Disney. The passenger, who was on a 5-night cruise to the Bahamas, is reported to have been a 38-year-old man from New York. He allegedly drowned around 4 p.m. while swimming in the waters off the Cay.
A spokesperson for Disney claims crew members and medical personnel responded to the emergency right away. But at this point, we don’t really have much information to go on as to what could have possibly contributed to the drowning. Bahamian authorities are investigating the incident and explained an autopsy would be performed to determine the cause of the accident.
Several factors could be at play here. The man could have been pulled under by a rip tide or he could have even suffered a medical condition while in the water. We will have to wait to see what the investigation reveals, but one thing that has been brought to our attention is the claim that there were no lifeguards on the beach where the accident occurred.
Although Disney does have trained life guards on the island throughout the family areas, and the cruise line was the first major cruise line to add lifeguards to its ships in 2013, there are claims that neither the adult beach on Castaway Cay nor adult-only pools are supervised by lifeguards. Could this tragic accident have been prevented had there been a lifeguard present? We can’t say for sure, but the chances of a drowning victim surviving are much higher when a lifeguard, who’s trained to detect even the minutest of signs that hint at the possibility of danger, is monitoring the area.
The cruise industry has faced scrutiny over the years over the general lack of lifeguard surveillance on ships and the number of drowning accidents that could have possibly been prevented, had a lifeguard been monitoring pool areas. Just last month, a 4-year-old boy nearly drowned while swimming in a wave pool on board Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.
However, protection shouldn’t just be limited to ships. Any body of water – especially an open body of water like the beach on Castaway Cay – should be monitored by lifeguards. And when a cruise line owns a private island, it is up to the cruise line to hire and appoint lifeguards on those islands.
Because the majority of drowning victims are children, it’s easy to forget that anyone, regardless of age, can become the victim of a drowning. In 2013, Michael Ward, a 1985 MOVE bombing survivor also known as Birdie Africa, drowned in a hot tub on board the Carnival Dream. This and the recent tragedy at Castaway Cay prove that even an adult can suffer a drowning accident. These incidents also highlight the need for cruise lines to employ trained lifeguards both on board their ships as well as at their private islands. Hopefully cruise lines will someday realize this, before any more fatal drowning accidents take place.