Search for Missing Cruise Ship Passengers Called Off

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Last week, our firm blogged about a tragic cruise ship overboard accident in Australia involving a Carnival Cruise Line vessel.  Sadly, authorities have called off the search for the two missing passengers, but although the rescue mission was ceased, this won’t be the last time we hear of this terrible incident.

The two passengers, an Australian couple, were reported to have fallen overboard from the Carnival Spirit last Wednesday. Surveillance footage showed the couple going over a railing around the same time, though it’s not clear who went overboard first. Authorities are still trying to determine whether the passengers fell by accident or jumped to the waters below.

Videos from onboard cameras recorded the pair outside their cabin when they fell over 65 feet from mid deck Wednesday night while the Spirit was about 65 nautical miles off the coast of Forster, Australia. They were reported as missing the next morning after the vessel docked at Sydney’s Circular Quay following a 10-day itinerary. The victims were identified as Paul Rossington, 30, and his 26-year-old girlfriend Kristen Schroder, both of Barraba, New South Wales state. They were traveling with family and friends, but none of their cruise mates were able to shed any light on what could have led to the tragic accident.

According to Stephen Leahy, head of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters, if the couple fell accidentally, there was a chance they would have survived until Friday due to calm waters and warm weather. Rossington, a paramedic who was in good shape, would have most likely been able to stay afloat and may have even been able to rescue his girlfriend.

“He has a very good understanding … of survival techniques and his level of fitness will help him,” said Leahy.  “He’ll also be able to help his partner. The chances of two young people surviving are very, very good, and certainly from our perspective, we haven’t given up hope.”

Rescue teams searched a 1,360 square nautical mile area near the site of the accident before calling the mission off for the overboard cruise passengers Friday evening.  According to Carnival, the railing over which the couple fell was 2 inches higher than the industry’s safety regulations call for in order to prevent a similar accident from happening.

Carnival claims the ship has around 600 surveillance cameras that are constantly monitored and at least four crew members are checking the cameras at any given time, so it is highly unlikely the couple went overboard without anyone noticing. Yet, the accident did occur and it went completely unnoticed. How could this even happen if footage was being constantly reviewed?

Ann Sherry, chief executive of Carnival Australia and Carnival Corp.’s representative in the South Pacific region noted that the video surveillance staff was busy watching the public areas of the ship. So which is the correct story? Does Carnival have crews constantly monitoring cameras or is it only certain areas they bother to check?

This discrepancy may cost the line to be held liable if the passengers are found to have indeed gone overboard by accident. The victims’ loved ones have the right to turn to a cruise ship lawyer for assistance in filing a case and determining whether they may be eligible to obtain compensation for the tragic accident.

The couple going overboard is just the latest of a series of maritime incidents that have befallen the “Fun Ship” liner this year. Between the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire in February that led to some of the most deplorable conditions ever reported on a vessel, four other vessels experiencing mechanical issues shortly thereafter and several other mishaps, it seems as though the once family-friendly fleet is becoming the world’s most dangerous cruise line.

Cruise lines have a responsibility to maintain safe conditions onboard vessels to prevent tragedies like this one from taking place. Unfortunately, despite the railings being 2 inches higher than cruise line industry safety regulations advise, Carnival still manages to make headlines for failing to protect their passengers from harm.