Ferry Passenger Falls Overboard and Dies After a Failed Rescue Attempt

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Last weekend, on Saturday, September 8, 2018 at roughly 8:30PM, a 21-year old man traveling aboard a party boat — Provincetown II, a ferry with capacity for 900 passengers, owned and operated by Bay State Cruise Company — went overboard near Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor.  After a grueling search and rescue effort that involved a dizzying array of emergency authorities (from the Boston Coast Guard station to Massachusetts state police), the passenger was found by divers at 1AM, dead in the water.

According to reports, Provincetown II functioned primarily as a party boat, and was being used to host a large party at the time of the incident.  The passenger had allegedly been engaging in dangerous activity that led to falling overboard — specifically, Bay State Cruise Company asserts that the passenger was doing vertical push ups near the bulwark of the ship, despite an earlier warning given by a crew member.  It is not yet clear whether the passenger was intoxicated.

Following the overboard incident, emergency personnel were immediately notified and rescue efforts were launched.

Though we are encouraged by the swift response by emergency rescue personnel, and by the coordinated efforts of such authorities (thus enabling the manpower necessary to perform a wide sweep of the area with divers and boats), there are a number of niggling issues — relating to the efforts of the Bay State Cruise Company — that are of concern to us.

In the present case, Bay State Cruise Company released a statement in which they claimed to have had a crew member warn the passenger as to the risks posed by their dangerous behavior.  Bay State Cruise Company alleges that they immediately engaged in rescue efforts after the overboard incident, and even “located and illuminated” the overboard passenger with the spotlight of the vessel.  Life rings were apparently thrown to the passenger and a crew member was in the water, ready to provide assistance, but according to Bay State Cruise Company, this was not enough to save the passenger — he drowned despite these various efforts.

However, significant questions remain concerning the efforts of Bay State Cruise Company to prevent the incident.  Certainly, the surviving family members are be entitled to bring a wrongful death action for damages due to the alleged failures of the cruise company to prevent the death at-issue under the circumstances.

Crew Must Be Adequately Trained to Prevent Dangerous Activities and Perform Basic Rescue Operations

Cruise lines and ferry lines often skimp on training to keep costs down.  Crew members may not be equipped to maintain order during alcohol-oriented events aboard the vessel, or to effectively perform an overboard rescue.  This seems to have been an issue in the present case.

It appears that crew members aboard Provincetown II were ill-equipped to resolve the dangerous situation as it progressed.  Provincetown II is a party boat, and as such, the possibility of passengers engaging in risky behaviors must be reasonably anticipated — Bay State Cruise Company should have trained crew members to do more than simply “warn” passengers of dangers.  Had the crew member forced the passenger to come down from the bulwark, then the overboard incident would not have occurred.

Similarly, crew members aboard Provincetown II appear to have been incapable of performing even a basic rescue operation.  The rescue failed despite Provincetown II locating the passenger in the water, shining a spotlight on him, providing life rings, and placing a crew member within just a few short feet of the overboard passenger.  Given the resources at their disposal, and the rather “connect-the-dots” nature of the rescue, crew aboard Provincetown II failed so spectacularly that their negligence — and that of Bay State Cruise Company — is painfully obvious.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one were traveling aboard a cruise ship or ferry and went overboard, thus suffering injuries (serious or fatal), then you may be entitled to significant damages pursuant to a lawsuit brought against the vessel operator.  Litigating such claims can be a legitimate challenge, however, as the defendant is likely to argue that they are not liable for a number of reasons — the victim contributed to their own injuries, the situation was unfortunate but did not rise to the level of negligence, and more.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our team of attorneys have over a century of combined experience representing injured clients (and their families) in claims brought against cruise lines and ferry lines, including scenarios that involve an unexpected overboard incident.  Thanks to our extensive experience, we understand the difficulties associated with maritime and admiralty law disputes brought against defendants with substantial corporate resources at their disposal, and how best to proceed with litigation so as to empower our clients and maximize their ability to secure full compensation.

We are committed to the provision of client-focused legal representation.  Contact a seasoned maritime lawyer here at Lipcon for further guidance.  We look forward to evaluating your claims and helping you develop a strategy moving forward.