We often hear of tragic cruise passenger disappearances here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., many of which are the result, in whole or in part, of the cruise line’s negligence. Failing to ensure guard rails are tall enough, failing to ensure crew members are stationed on deck to protect passengers from harm, and over serving passengers alcohol can all contribute to a dangerous accident like going overboard. Many times, cruise ship disappearances are also the result of foul play. There have been an untold number of victims who got into altercations with other passengers or crew members and subsequently disappeared.
Though over 200 people have gone missing from cruise ships in the last decade, we aren’t any closer to preventing these tragic accidents. This lack of improvement is not for lack of technology, because there are plenty of ways cruise lines can help stop overboard incidents. There is even a new technology that can detect when and where a passenger goes overboard from a ship so a rescue mission can be initiated right away. Perhaps one of the reasons we aren’t seeing a reduction in the number of deaths as a result of overboard incidents is because cruise lines aren’t investing in this and other preventative technology.
Though there always seems to be enough money to invest in new entertainment and grander ships, cruise lines are not doing enough to allocate some of their vast resources toward improving safety for those onboard.
Our cruise ship accident lawyers recently heard of a new overboard accident involving a Royal Caribbean passenger. It is unclear if any negligence on the part of the cruise line was in any way to blame for this incident, but regardless it begs the question of whether the incident could have been prevented with better surveillance technology or a larger number of crew members providing security?
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the passenger, a Canadian resident, jumped off the Adventurer of the Seas Sunday while the ship was reaching Puerto Rico. The victim, a 26-year-old male, was on the final night of a 7-night Caribbean itinerary with his family. He was last seen on Saturday while the vessel was passing by Mona Island, an uninhabited island between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
We don’t yet know all the details of the incident or what caused the man to jump. Rescue teams were searching for the missing man during the weekend and recovered his body on Sunday. Authorities have identified the man as Tien Phuoc Nguyen.
Though we may not know what caused the man to jump, we wonder if he could have been saved. Authorities say the ship’s captain immediately stopped and turned the vessel around upon receiving word of the incident and contacted the Coast Guard. The man was also videotaped jumping from the ship.
It appears as though this passenger chose to jump, but it’s a lot easier to accidentally fall overboard then the public may think. One of our clients, Sarah Kirby, fell from her balcony stateroom after being overserved alcohol by a cruise ship bartender. Thankfully, she survived but this is the exception rather than the rule. As tragic as the many deaths resulting from overboard incidents have been, it is equally terrible that these accidents could potentially have been prevented.
Cruise lines need to up their safety protocols, especially their tactic of pushing alcohol sales. Anyone who drinks alcoholic beverage has probably over indulged at some point in their life and lost their balance, but losing your balance next to a low guard rail on the edge of a ship hundreds of miles away from shore is a much more dangerous affair.
In this case, Royal did a good job of responding immediately and alerting rescue authorities of the accident. Sadly, that was not enough to save the young man who went overboard in this incident. We’ll have more information on the incident within the coming days, but we hope the victim’s family can find some semblance of peace following their loss.