Accidents onboard cruise ships are common, often involving minor injuries including bumps and bruises from a slip and fall, but can also involve more serious and life-threatening incidents such as an assault, falling overboard or even murder.
Although most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and divert accident investigations abroad – diverting responsibility for the case in general – when a serious incident occurs involving a U.S. citizen or resident or the vessel is in U.S. waters, such as a cruise ship death or sexual assault, the line must notify the FBI.
While there have been numerous accidents involving serious and criminal activity on the high seas since cruise travel first began, not all incidents become public news. Aside from being registered in foreign ports, cruise companies are not too keen on divulging information to the public regarding an assault, rape or murder investigation. Not only does it make the cruise company’s reputation diminish, but the line’s operators may be found partially – if not completely – liable for the injury or death, potentially costing the company millions of dollars in damages.
However, one recent maritime tragedy is gaining increasing attention as the FBI continues to investigate what has been called a “suspicious” cruise ship death.
More details have been released regarding the mysterious death of a 64-year-old Royal Caribbean cruise ship passenger. The victim was sailing on the Enchantment of the Seas out of Baltimore, Maryland on the last leg of a seven-day itinerary to the Bahamas when her husband found her unresponsive in her cabin on Sunday.
The victim’s husband alerted crewmembers who tried to resuscitate the woman, but she was pronounced dead on the ship.
When the Enchantment of the Seas returned to Baltimore on Monday, FBI agents were waiting at the port to board the ship and search for answers as to what could have caused the woman’s death.
Agents searched the victim’s cabin, stateroom 7110, for evidence that might suggest foul play, but so far, nothing has been determined. According to FBI spokesman, Special Agent Richard Wolf, agents found “several unusual circumstances” as they carried out the investigation. At first, the incident was being regarded as a possible murder/suicide, but the FBI has yet to rule out any of those options.
Although the woman’s identity has yet to be revealed, Agent Wolf explained the victim was from Midlothian, Virginia and further information is expected to be revealed later today and throughout the weekend.
A spokesman for the Maryland office of the chief medical examiner said the victim’s cause and manner of death were indeterminable as of Wednesday, but even if an explanation were to have been determined, it is up to the FBI to release the information to the public.
Although there have been many times in which cruise lines have failed to report serious incidents such as the death of a passenger or crewmember to government authorities, the Enchantment of the Seas crew notified the FBI of the cruise ship death immediately.
Once at port, agents also interviewed the vessel’s crew, other passengers as well as the woman’s husband.
“The ship was working with us the whole way…Everyone was very cooperative, including the husband,” said Agent Wolf, who added that the victim had been traveling with her husband alone. No other friends or family members were onboard the ship.
Royal Caribbean issued a statement regarding the incident, expressing their condolences to the victim’s loved ones.
“We extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the 64-year-old female guest from the United States who died while onboard Enchantment of the Seas,” read the statement.
However, cruise line officials have declined to answer any further questions about the circumstances surrounding the passenger’s untimely death.
When fatal accidents occur on the high seas, it is important for the victim’s surviving loved ones to know that they do not have to sit back, waiting for the cruise line or investigators to release information regarding the incident. Anyone who has been involved in or lost a loved one in an accident on the high seas has a right to consult with a cruise ship lawyer for help in filing a legal case and protecting their rights.
Having represented maritime accident cases since 1971, our cruise ship attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. know just how devastating, confusing and frustrating the loss of a loved one can be, especially when cruise ship operators don’t want to cooperate and release information regarding the case. Our goal is to obtain justice for victims and their loved ones, especially if the incident was the result of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing.
Many cruise passengers and crewmembers have been killed either because of a criminal act or because of an accident, many time, these incidents were caused in whole or in part by the cruise line’s negligence in providing a safe environment. All cruise companies are responsible for the safety of those onboard under maritime law, and when that safety is compromised, lines may be found liable, at least in part, for any ensuing injuries or fatalities.
While an exact number of fatalities will never be reported, the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), an organization which represents victims of cruise ship crimes and their loved ones, reported that 198 people have been reported overboard or missing on cruise ships or ferries worldwide since 1995.
“About every two weeks in the last two years,” said organization president Kendall Carver, whose group advocates for improved maritime safety, crime reporting and accountability.
The death of the Virginia woman serves as yet another reminder that bad things can and do happen on ships. The jury is out on this particular incident, however. At this time there is not enough information to determine what happened or the cause of death. Most of the times the cruise lines are on the side of their passengers and they want their passengers to have a nice vacation cruise. However when things go wrong, the cruise lines might no longer be the passenger’s friend. In this instance, it looks like the cruise line did the right thing and contacted the FBI right away.
Enchantment of the Seas – www.upi.com