Girl, 8, got on ‘tippy toes’ to peer over cruise ship railing, then fell to her death


By Alex Harris, The Miami Herald

A family cruise to paradise turned into a nightmare on Saturday, when an 8-year-old tumbled over the inner railings of a ship and fell to her death.

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said it isn’t yet clear if there’s security footage capturing the accident, and Miami-Dade police, the lead agency, had no updates on the investigation.

“Our most heartfelt condolences are with the family at this very difficult time,” Carnival said in a statement.

What was clear Monday was that the Carnival Glory’s thousands of passengers were in a hurry to disembark Saturday after their weeklong cruise.

The teeming crowd trying to exit on the third-floor deck was mesmerizing to Zion Smith, a Bahamian girl waiting on the fifth floor to disembark with her family. She and her little brother were at the railing — one De La Cruz estimated to be more than 40 inches high — watching the crowd.

“She was just as tall as the railings. She got on her tippy toes, I guess for a better look,” Naquanda Lyons said. “I can only assume someone accidentally bumped her over the railing.”

Suddenly the elementary school girl was falling two stories. Lyons, 29, said the girl hit her head on a wooden table.

“Her mom started screaming, ‘My baby, my baby,’” she said. “She ran down those stairs so fast.”

A retired emergency medical technician started to perform CPR on the girl, Lyons said, before Miami-Dade police arrived and cordoned off the scene. Zion was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.

Zion’s great uncle, Damien Fox, told Local 10 news he came to Miami to help his family find out what happened.

“We just need some justice and we need some answers,” Fox said. “Once we get that, we can move forward.”

Michael Winkleman, a maritime lawyer with Miami-based Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina and Winkleman, said his firm has litigated around a thousand cases against Carnival cruise, many of them “overboards” like this case.

Just months ago, Winkleman said, he settled a case where a 30-year-old man fell to his death from an interior railing on a Carnival cruise. That case, like most his firm handles, did not go to trial.