Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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Since the tragedy of the Costa Concordia occurred last January off of the coast of “Isola del Giglio”, Costa Cruise Lines has been in a public relations storm that seems never-ending.

Captain Francesco Schettino, the ultimate responsible person aboard the sinking ship, was arrested the day following the events.

This week, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in Italy, confirmed the lower court’s decision to maintain a house arrest order against Schettino. The decision is motivated by several factors that we have discussed in prior articles. Mainly, the Cassation’s judges believe that Schettino has shown little resilience in performing command function or in handling responsibility for the safety of persons under his care. The decision further explains that the Captain of the cruise liner proved to be unable to manage a crisis and to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew (by abandoning ship) and that there would be a risk of a repeat of the disaster if he were given command again. Ultimately, the Court of Cassation seems to agree with the criminal charges Schettino is now facing, which include multiple manslaughter, causing the accident, and abandoning ship.

As a result of the very public downfall of Captain Schettino, Costa Cruise Lines’ public relations’ policy has been very clear. Blame Schettino for his extraordinarily dangerous decisions as Captain and hope to deflect any and all responsibility from the cruise line company. That strategy might have worked initially, but new found information reveals that Costa Cruise may have a systemic problem at hand when it comes to safety practice.
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One hundred days have passed since the tragic events of the Costa Concordia which saw the confirmed death of 30 cruise passengers and the disappearance of 2 additional passengers whose bodies have yet to be found.

It took more than 100 days for the cruise industry to agree on three new safety measures. The announcement of the new policies by the cruise industry through Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the European Cruise Council (ECC) is all over the print and digital media and looks more to be a public relations coup than addressing the true concerns and lessons that were learned from the events that led to the sinking and grounding of the Costa Concordia.

The first measure proclaims that cruise ships will now have more lifejackets aboard than are required by law; Limiting access to a ship’s bridge at potentially dangerous times; and requiring cruise ship routes to be planned in advance and shared with all members of the bridge team.

The second and third measures are directly addressing errors which may have contributed to the Costa Concordia’s demise. Last January, Captain Schettino had invited a female passenger to the ship’s bridge, which according to witnesses, distracted not only the Captain, but the rest of the bridge team.

One should wonder why it took over 100 days for the cruise industry to figure out that bringing passengers to the bridge of a ship when the captain and the bridge team are maneuvering the ship is a terrible idea. The third measure is equally baffling. Why did it take until April of 2012 to require a bridge team to agree the ship’s route before the ship sails and stick to the route? What has happened to common sense?
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The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 applies to ships navigating in international waters.

Article 98 of the UNCLOS provides that (1) Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers (a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost and; (b) to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him;

On March 10, 2012, Jeff Gilligan of Portland, Oregon, was on The Star Princess, a luxury cruise ship operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, based out of Miami, Florida. Jeff is an avid bird watcher and that day he was bird watching with two fellow cruise passengers, using their binoculars and spotting telescopes from one of the decks of the ship.

That is when Jeff and his two friends spotted a boat approximately one mile from the cruise ship. Using his binoculars, Jeff saw that the occupants on that small vessel were waving their t-shirts in the direction of the cruise ship. Jeff took a photo of the vessel.

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Judy Meredith from Bend, Oregon, was with Jeff and told NPR: “We all watched him for a bit and thought, ‘This guy’s in distress. He’s trying to get our attention. And he doesn’t have a motor on his boat.’ We could see that.”

She then ran inside to alert the crew, but she only found a crew member who was with the ship’s sales team. The cruise employee contacted the bridge and the situation was relayed to the captain. Jeff Gilligan handed his telescope to another crew member to look at the drifting boat and he confirmed that he saw a boat in distress.

Jeff, Judy and the third bird-watcher thought the ship’s captain would either turn around to rescue the boaters or take the appropriate steps to ensure that the local authorities would conduct a rescue mission. Unfortunately, nothing was ever done.

Days after the cruise ended, Judy Meredith contacted Princess Cruise to inquire about what had happened to the boaters and the steps taken by the ship’s captain at the time. Judy’s tenacity was not something Princess Cruise was prepared for and several versions of the incident surfaced. The last version given by Princess was that cruise ship contacted the boaters in question, but rather than signaling for distress, they had been signaling for the ship to change course because they were afraid the large cruise ship would damage the boaters’ fishing nets. Also, Judy was told that what she mistakenly interpreted as boaters waving their t-shirts in a sign of distress was actually a sign of gratitude for having altered the ship’s course.
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Leesfield Scolaro recently filed two lawsuits against Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Water Sports for the wrongful death and catastrophic personal injuries sustained by two cruise passengers in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

To read more about the lawsuit against the cruise line and parasailing tour operator: Lawsuit Filed against Celebrity Cruises and Parasail Operator for the Wrongful Death of Cruise Passenger

Below is a news report broadcasted on the local CBS affiliate.

 

 

After this tragic incident, parasailing excursions, which were traditionally sold to passengers before a cruise on the cruise’s websites or during a cruise aboard the ship, were indefinitely suspended by the majority of the cruise lines, including Celebrity.

Celebrity Cruises, owner and operator of the ship Celebrity Eclipse, announced the cancellation of all parasailing excursions in the Caribbean indefinitely less than a week after the death of one of its passengers.

Celebrity’s Public Relations Department made sure that the announcement at the time was well-publicized and relayed in as many media outlets as possible. “All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation,” said a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson.

Celebrity Parasail.jpgIt was surprising today to find out that, with a simple search of Celebrity’s watersports activities, parasailing excursions are still being sold to cruise passengers.

While Celebrity’s PR Department made sure to that its announcement last November canceling all parasailing activities was published in every newspaper and relayed by every media outlet in the aftermath of the death of a Celebrity passenger, there has not been any news release or news conference announcing that parasailing excursions have resumed.

Celebrity has not communicated to members of the public and customers what its investigation revealed and the steps taken to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again.

To read more about the dangers of parasailing and prior cases of parasail operator negligence: Lawsuit Filed against Parasail Operator in Wrongful Death of Cruise Passenger
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We have previously reported on the suspicious death of Kenneth John Gemmell who was a cruise passenger on the Allure of the Seas, a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises.

It has not been over two weeks since the 30-year-old man disappeared at sea and the questions asked by the family to help them understand what may have happened on the night of the incident still remain unanswered today.

Initially, Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying that their passenger apparently committed suicide. That conclusion had been reached after the cruise company spokesman confirmed that existed video footage of Kenneth Gemmell standing up on the table in his cabin and jumping off the ship, apparently on his own.

kenneth john gemmell 2.jpgRead more on the initial statement by Royal Caribbean here: Another Death of 30 year-old Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

Despite the claim that said video footage exists, the family has yet to see it. In the days following the incident, the authorities in charge of this passenger disappearance case stated that the open investigation was still ongoing and that they could not reach the same conclusion that Royal Caribbean had reached only several hours after the tragedy occurred.

In the last week, many passengers who were on that same cruise began to come forward by reaching out to the Gemmell’s family directly, while others left comments on the internet, describing what they recall seeing or knowing about the incident that may be of help in piecing together the last few hours of Kenneth’s life aboard the Allure of the Seas.

Of particular interest, we have now learned that Kenneth entered into an argument with a cruise employee that night. The employee in question is so far nowhere to be found. The family suspects that the employee was allowed, by Royal Caribbean, to disembark in Cozumel, Mexico.

While Royal immediately issued a statement contradicting these latest reports, the latest declarations made by the family to the media yesterday certainly add another layer of suspicion surrounding this case.

The family confirmed to Examiner.com that the lead investigator in the Bahamas has confirmed to them that Royal Caribbean has video footage of the dispute between Kenneth and the cruise employee/bartender. He further confirmed that, contrary to what it stated in one of its earlier releases, Royal did in fact allow one of its employees to board off the ship and was never asked to return.

This raises suspicion on what happened in the moments leading to Kenneth’s disappearance. Several fellow cruisers who were on the Allure of the Seas have commented on several internet forums and online boards that the employee with whom Kenneth was seen to have an argument was selling drugs to passengers.
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For any media inquiry, please contact Ira Leesfield by email or by phone at 305-854-4900.

Leesfield Scolaro filed a lawsuit in federal Court against Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Watersports & Tours, for their respective alleged negligence which resulted in the wrongful death of cruise passenger Bernice Kraftcheck.

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On November 12, 2011, Bernice Kraftcheck and her daughter Danielle Haese boarded the Celebrity Eclipse for an Eastern Caribbean Cruise departing from Miami, Florida. During the cruise, the mother and daughter purchased a shore excursion offered aboard the cruise ship, a parasail excursion which would take place after the ship docked in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tragically, the parasail excursion which was supposed to be a thrilling experience turned out to be a nightmare for the Kraftcheck family. After Bernice and her daughter were sent up in the sky by the parasail operators, the rope broke off due to heavy winds and dangerous weather conditions. This resulted in the two occupants to plummet into the water at a very high rare of speed. The force of the impact caused Danielle to sustain massive injuries, her mother Bernice sustained fatal injuries and ultimately passed away.

A lawsuit was filed today in Federal Court for the alleged negligence of Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Watersports & Tours.

As a cruise operator who offers shore excursions to its passengers, Celebrity owes a duty of reasonable care for the health, welfare and safety of its passengers. Click here to obtain a copy of the complaint.

Cruise lines can be held legally liable when they advertise shore excursions while representing to members of the public and to its paying passengers that shore excursions are safe and a passenger sustains an injury as a result of the excursion operator’s negligence.

caribbean watersports.jpgIn the event that cruise lines select an excursion operator and fail to verify the operator’s safety policies and procedures, cruise lines will be held liable for their negligence and misrepresentation.

In its promotional literature, Celebrity Cruises represent the following to members of the public, potential cruisers, and passengers already aboard one of their cruise ships:

“This is your vacation – and with our Shore Excursions you can be sure it will be one to remember.”

“To purchase your Shore Excursions, view full tour descriptions, images and videos, or download our Shore Excursion brochures

“Whether you are looking for a high-energy adventure or a laid back, relaxing day, we have a Shore Excursion for you

Our shore excursions provide the best each port has to offer with a wide variety of activities and options to chose from”

We’ve done the work of planning your day so that you don’t have to – just choose which adventure to embark on

On its website, Celebrity made further representations regarding “our Shore Excursions”, including:

“Whether you prefer the thrill of parasailing – soaring 800 feet over the beaches below – or just basking on those beaches, Celebrity offers the perfect activity for every sun lover

“There are lots of things you can do to make this cruise all about you . . . looking for something to do off of the ship? We have lots of different shore and land excursions in every port

We offer many different shore excursions from every port. They are a great way to experience the culture and history of the various ports of call”

“When you give us your precious vacation days, we give you a world of modern luxury. That means you don’t have to worry about a single thing

“From our exhilarating shore excursions at every port, to our inspiring onboard activities, everything is created with your ultimate enjoyment in mind.”

No matter which of our incredible shore excursions you choose, you will be surrounded by some of the most astonishing vibrant and beautiful sites anywhere in the world.”

Our Shore Excursions will help you discover the hidden retreats and unspoiled masterpiece mother nature created”

Celebrity offers a wide variety of excursions

Celebrity passengers rely upon the cruise line’s representations regarding shore excursions offered on Celebrity’s website and aboard its cruise ships.
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The father of Kenneth John Gemmell spoke out recently about the disappearance at sea of his 30-year-old son. We reported on this story as soon as it happened and once additional information became known. Several passengers on that same cruise have come forward with pertinent information which have raised some doubt as to exactly what happened to the young man.

Kenneth John Gemmell.jpgRead our previous posts on this story:

Another Death of 30 year-old Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

Family of Deceased Cruise Passenger Seeks Information from Fellow Cruisers

In the last 24 hours, Kenneth’s father, James Gemmell, has reiterated the family’s efforts to get more information from fellow cruisers who may have more information about the disappearance of Kenneth and the claims by the cruise line that the yound man committed suicide.

A spokesman for Royal Caribbean Cruises, which operates the “Allure of the Seas” released a more detailed statement: “He was alone on the balcony in his stateroom on deck 11 when he stepped on top of the balcony table in order to jump over the balcony railing. The footage is consistent with an eyewitness report from another guest.”

The statement refers to a video footage captured on the ship’s closed circuit surveillance system. While the statement seems to leave no doubt as to what happened in the seconds prior to Kenneth’s jumping off the ship, the family is still trying to understand what led the young man to such an act.

In an interview, James Gemmell has said that “Kenneth was not a suicide risk. He went out on a holiday and was very happy. We just don’t understand what happened.” His mother added her son “was very good at his job and loyal to those he worked with and was a happy and outgoing person. He went on the cruise a very happy and jolly person. He was delighted about it and had nothing to be sad about. He was not a suicide risk.”

The reason Kenneth’s parents are continuously looking for answers is easily explained. First, despite the claim by the cruise line that the 30-year-old committed suicide and taht he was caught on their surveillance system jumping off the ship on his power remains to be proven. The cruise line has yet to turn over the video footage to the family at this point in time. Second, the investigators, who we can assume have seen the video footage in question, have not indicated that this is a suicide case and the investigation is still ongoing. Lastly, and probably most importantly for the family, several fellow cruisers have come forward on forums and other online websites and commented that they saw Kenneth have an argument with a crew member not long before he allegedly disappeared.

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Blaze – Club where Kenneth Gemmell may have had an argument with a Royal crewmember

Those doubts are reinforced by new rumors that the said crewmember who entered into an argument with Kenneth, may have disembarked in Cozumel while the authorities were still searching for Kenneth’s body and never returned aboard the ship. Some cruisers brought even more troubling doubts when said crewmember may have been selling drugs to passengers that night.

Yesterday, in the face of the new information, that has yet to be substantiated, Royal denied that any crew members failed to report for sailing while in Cozumel.

If you have any additional information, you may reach the parents by email at Michael@ mhynes.com
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Earlier this week we reported on the death of a cruise passenger on the Allure of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean.

At the time, Royal Caribbean’s public relations was in full damage control mode, cooperating with the local authorities, providing investigators with captured footage of the ship’s closed-circuit surveillance cameras. The only conclusion one could reach after reading RCCL’s statement was that the 30-year-old cruise passenger had committed suicide by jumping over the railing of his cabin located on deck 11. The investigators in charge, looking at the same evidence, had not reached that same conclusion, and simply stated that the investigation was still ongoing.

Within the last 24 hours, more information has surfaced that may very well change how the young man came to disappear at sea.

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An investigation led by the authorities in the Bahamas and assisted by Federal Agents is underway after yet another cruise passenger fell off the ship and died as a result of his injuries.

At the time the incident occurred, Allure of the Seas, cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean, was approximately one mile off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. It has been reported by other passengers that the young man was a British citizen, and allegedly fell from the balcony of his stateroom located on Deck 11.

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As soon as the incident became known the crewmembers, multiple public announcements were made over the speakers throughout the entire ship and Royal Caribbean employees began searching for the missing passenger. Once it became clear to crewmembers that the passenger was indeed missing and had probably fallen off the ship, the captain immediately alerted the local authorities of the incident.

Royal Caribbean has since issued a statement saying “a review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed the British guest going over the balcony railing in his stateroom on deck 11. The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and the US and Mexican Coast Guard were alerted. Our Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

All signs in the early stages of the investigation point to a suicide, yet Superintendent Paul Rolle, Head of the Central Detective Unit, has shared with members of the media that the investigation is not complete. He said in an interview with The Tribune: “We do not have much information we can share with the public at this point. All we know is a British man is dead and it may or may not have been suicide. We are still conducting our on scene investigations and interviewing eyewitness. We are being assisted by other law enforcement agencies and expect to wrap up our investigations shortly. At that time, I will provide an update,”

The deceased, whose name the authorities have not released, was on board a ship along with more than 4,500 passengers as it sailed from Florida to Cancun on a gay and lesbian-themed seven-day cruise.
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We recently reported on two incidents occurring only days apart where cruise passengers had fallen and died as a result of their injuries.

catacombsl-005005706019.jpgThe first incident saw the death of Barbara Wood on the Liberty of the Seas, owned and operated Royal Caribbean Cruises. The investigators and witnesses to the tragedy told the media that Barbara Wood was leaving the ship’s nightclub, Catacombs, when she fell while going down the club’s stairs. She hit her head on one of the steps and sustained a massive head injury, resulting in her death about an hour later.

Less than 48 hours later, Carnival cruise passenger, Walter Bouknight, fell down two floors after falling off a platform in the atrium of the Carnival Fantasy. Passengers who witnessed the events have since reported that alcohol may have been in play. The young man may have been gambling in the ship’s casino a few moments prior to his fall and may have been drinking to the point of intoxication.

In both instances, alcohol consumption and intoxication may have been the main contributing factor to explain these incidents. If there is evidence that these passengers had consumed alcohol prior to their fall, and that the amount of alcohol in their system rendered them intoxicated, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises respectively could face a lawsuit for having over-served alcohol to these passengers.

Cruise Lines can be held liable for over-serving alcohol to cruise passengers
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals decided in a landmark case in 2004, that cruise lines can be held liable for over-serving their passengers to the point of intoxication if they sustain injuries caused by their alcohol-related impairment. In Hall v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Judge Schwartz reversed the lower court’s decision ruling that the defendant cruise line has an established duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers, a duty couched in general maritime law.

Royal Caribbean had argued that the Court of Appeal should look to Florida’s dram shop act as the governing law to resolve that case and not general maritime principles. Had the Third District Court of Appeal agreed with Royal, it would have severely limited the cruise lines’ liability in future similar cases.

cruisedrinks.jpgThe Florida’s Dram Shop Act enacted as Statute 768.125 provides that [a] person who furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person. The exceptions to Florida’s Dram Shop Act are when a Florida business willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or when it knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.

Consequently, since the Hall decision, cruise passengers have able to bring lawsuits against cruise lines for not only over-serving and essentially intoxicating them while on the ship, but also for intoxicating other passengers who may have become violent towards them as a result of having been served too much alcohol.
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