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Man Overboard: Our Maritime Attorney Discusses Cruise Ship Practices That Could Have Prevented An Unnecessary Death

Michael A. Winkleman

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Michael A. Winkleman is one of the nation’s top maritime lawyers. An active trial and appellate attorney, Mr. Winkleman is also a frequent contributing expert on maritime and cruise ship law. He has made more than 100 national television appearances regarding cruise ship law.

Toronto Skyline at SunsetAs a maritime law firm, cruise ship safety is an issue of top priority.  When you step foot on a cruise, you want to know that your safety and security is going to be well looked after. Most of the time, the captain and crewmembers on your cruise will have enough training and preparation to keep you happy and healthy for the duration of your time on the water.

However, we tend to think that it’s far better to be prepared than to be caught off guard. And as a result, it may be in your best interest to be well aware of the potential issues you may face aboard your cruise.

A recently re-opened story out of Toronto gives us one such opportunity to discuss a major cruise safety issue at play.

Man Drowns in Lake Ontario

Last year, Keith White from London, Ontario, Canada, fell overboard the Northern Spirit cruise ship and into Lake Ontario, where he drowned.

At the time, a search of the area by a maritime rescue unit did not uncover his body. He was eventually discovered 18 days later in Humber Bay.

Our thoughts are still with White’s family, over a year after the accident took place. However, in the wake of the accident, and in the light of recently revealed information, we cannot help but to ask why this tragic event was not prevented?

According to investigations, numerous red flags were overlooked throughout the evening. Although it is reported that White was intoxicated when he boarded the cruise, guards apparently did not notice and, in addition to allowing him onto the vessel, continued to serve him alcohol during the evening.

Once White fell overboard, the “man overboard” drills were not carried out, reportedly, “so as not to alarm the other passengers.” And almost 45 minutes passed between the time of his falling overboard and the appearance of the first rescue boat. The search was called off two hours later.

Who Is To Blame?

It seems clear that multiple issues were at play, here. Excessive intoxication, paired with a sub-par execution of rescue protocol may have lead to this man’s death.

Despite any inconvenience it may have caused to other passengers, crewmembers should have taken note of White’s intoxication when he boarded the ship, and, when he went overboard, the appropriate drills should have been immediately implemented.

After all, if you are placing your trust in a cruise line to bring you safely back to shore, you would like them to follow protocol, regardless of the circumstances. Thus, we hope that this case will serve as a much needed wake-up call to the cruise industry.

Passengers who have had too much to drink should not be served, and those who fall overboard should have the knowledge that searches will be started in an emergency fashion. These are not debatable issues, this is what the law requires

Call On Us to Help

Unfortunately, this is not the only case in which protocol has not been followed and catastrophic injury or death has resulted. As a result, we have experience with a wide range of maritime legal issues. So if you believe that a maritime attorney could assist you with your legal case, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be glad to schedule an initial consultation and help you determine the best next step.

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