Statistics show that over 200 cruise passengers and crew have gone overboard since 1995. Though several factors can play a role in these tragic accidents, including intoxication or foul play, cruise line security and safety continues to be subpar – despite recent advances in technology that have led to the creation of overboard passenger radar detection. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who are involved in overboard accidents do not survive. The sheer fall from a ship alone can be fatal, but other factors, such as exposure, tides, and marine life can also contribute to an overboard victim’s death.
The maritime lawyers at our firm have represented several grief-stricken loved ones whose family members and friends have fallen overboard from cruise ships. And what’s most striking is the fact that in many of these cases, there was no footage of the actual incident. These days, cruise ships are designed to carry well over 2,000 passengers and hundreds of crew members. Most cruise ships are equipped with surveillance technology, but then how are there no records of these accidents? Moreover, why aren’t there any crew members monitoring public areas to prevent these accidents in the first place?
Surveillance and security are key in preventing overboard accidents. We cannot stress this enough. Though some victims fall from their cabin balconies, many go overboard from public areas such as the Lido Deck, which crew members should be monitoring. Sadly, cruise lines tend to have a “we’ll deal with it after it happens” attitude when it comes to accidents. Instead of investing what wouldn’t even be described as an exorbitant amount of funds into better equipping ships with overboard detection technology or ensuring crew members are monitoring public areas to prevent incidents, many cruise lines choose to wait until after a tragedy occurs to take action. By this point, unfortunately, it’s too late for many victims.
But while many cruisers (and crew members) have fallen overboard into the vast waters below, there are also times when victims fall over a balcony or deck onto another deck, lifeboat, or other piece of equipment and sustain life-threatening – if not fatal – injuries. These types of accidents should also be given greater attention, especially given the high fatality rate. In fact, our maritime lawyers wrote about a horrific fall on board Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas ship involving a toddler. The toddler crawled through the railings on a balcony and fell to the deck below, sustaining head injuries as a result.
The lack of safety and need for greater security on ships to prevent overboard and fall accidents was made even clearer today after our maritime lawyers learned that a young cruise passenger died after falling from the mast of the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship. The victim, Kendall Wernet , died on Monday as a result of the fall. He was a 20-year-old Clemson University student from North Carolina.
According to Carnival Cruise Line officials, Wernet got into a restricted area on the ship and climbed up the vessel’s forward mast. He then fell and landed on a lower deck below.
The ship’s onboard medical team treated him initially, but the injuries were too great. The victim was later taken to a hospital in Miami where he died of his injuries.
We can’t say with 100 percent certainty that this accident could have been prevented, but the fact that the victim was able to enter a restricted area undetected and then climb the vessels mast demonstrates the appalling lack of adequate security on Carnival’s vessel Ecstasy. Why wasn’t there a surveillance camera on the access point to the restricted? Why is a restricted area not equipped with a sensor and an alarm so that when anyone enters it, someone is made aware of that fact and can then check to see if that someone is authorized to be there? Why is the access to a restricted area able to be breached by a 20-year-old college kid? These are all questions that need to be asked and then measures need to be taken to make sure this cannot happen again. Unfortunately, history has shown that in all likelihood, very little will change in the way Carnival continues to run its ships.
Our condolences go out to the victim’s loved ones. It’s important for anyone who has been injured on a ship or who has lost a loved one to consult with experienced maritime lawyers in order to determine whether they have a viable case. If the cruise line was at least partially to blame for the accident, due to their failure to provide a reasonably safe shipboard environment, then the victim of that failure may be able to obtain compensation.