Just yesterday, in the early hours of Sunday, September 9, a 33-year old German passenger making the two-week cross-Atlantic journey from Hamburg to New York on the cruise ship Aidaluna — operated by Aida Cruises — went overboard off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada, roughly 200 kilometers northeast of the city of St. John’s. The incident has drawn international media attention, as the passenger has been identified as Daniel Kueblboeck, who once competed on a popular, televised German singing competition.
According to reports, Daniel went overboard at around 6AM, which several passengers witnessed first-hand. Crew aboard Aidaluna immediately contacted relevant Coast Guard authorities, and conducted an immediate cabin check to determine the identity of the overboard passenger. The ship also turned around and returned to the original location of the overboard incident to perform initial search and rescue operations while Coast Guard assistance was secured.
At this time, Daniel has yet to be rescued. The search continues. However given the water temperature and the and the length of time that has passed, his chances of survival are not good.
Though media reports — many of which have been formulated on the basis of Aida Cruises own corporate tweets on the matter — seem to give the cruise line the benefit of the doubt with regard to the “immediacy” and “well-coordinated” nature of the search and rescue response, there are several aspects of the present case that give us pause.
First, Aida Cruises alleges that Daniel jumped overboard, on his own accord. It appears that Aida Cruises was too quick to reach this conclusion and may be attempting to deflect liability at this early juncture. Often times cruise lines are quick to blame the victim and label any overboard incident a suicide attempt.
Second, if crew on Aidaluna were in fact highly responsive to the overboard incident, then it is not reflected by the search and rescue response — passengers reportedly witnessed the overboard incident as it occurred, and brought this to the attention of crewmembers. If this were true, then the ship should have stopped its course in time to perform a successful search and rescue operation within minutes of the incident. Instead, multiple coast guard ships and air support are conducting a search over hundreds of kilometers. This does not comport with the “immediate response” narrative put forth by Aida Cruises.
Given the circumstances, it’s possible that Daniel (if he survives and is rescued) and his family members will have an actionable claim against Aida Cruises for negligence.
Overboard Rescue Efforts Must Be Immediate and Effectively Coordinated
Cruise lines must make reasonable efforts to prevent overboard incidents, and when they do occur, to rescue overboard passengers.
Prevention is possible with the implementation of safety equipment that either automatically alerts crew to an overboard accident — for example, an automated man-overboard alarm system in which sensors immediately notify crewmembers. In the overboard context, even a relatively short fifteen minute delay (caused by passengers attempting to get a hold of crew) could spell the difference between life and death.
When an overboard accident does occur, crew members must coordinate quickly and effectively with relevant authorities. Further, if there are private vessels in the area, it may be necessary to contact them and recruit their assistance. In some cases, cruise ships are slow to contact authorities and the delay can lead to unnecessary injuries or death.
We Can Provide Legal Assistance
If you or a loved one has gone overboard while traveling on a cruise ship, and has thereby suffered injuries (or worse), then you may be entitled to significant compensation, depending on the circumstances. Cruise lines must make reasonable efforts to prevent overboard incidents, and to respond appropriately to such incidents when they do occur.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys boast over 100 years of combined experience in maritime and admiralty law, representing a range of clients in disputes against negligent cruise lines (and other parties), in scenarios that includes overboard injuries and missing passengers. We are committed to the provision of thoughtful, comprehensive representation, and we believe that it is this client-oriented approach that has brought us substantial success — over the decades, we have secured over $200 million on behalf of our clients.
The present case occurred off the coast of Newfoundland, in Canadian waters, and involved a German passenger. It’s important to note that the victim and their family members would likely be entitled to compensation regardless of the location of the incident. Here at Lipcon, despite the fact that our offices are located in Florida, we have successfully litigated similar claims in courtrooms worldwide.
We encourage you to contact our team of experienced maritime lawyers for further assistance with your claims. We look forward to hearing from you.