Articles Tagged with “Passenger Disappearance”

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In a previous article, we have listed the reasons why the Costa Concordia cruise passengers will have a strong legal argument to lift the cruise company’s limits of liability under the Athens Convention.

The language contained in the Convention allow the cruise liner to limit is financial liability to a maximum of $72,000 per passenger affected by this tragedy for their personal injury or death. However, Article 13 of the Athens Convention does provide that if a passenger is able to prove that their damage resulted from an act or omission done [ . . . ] recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result, then the limits of liability of the Athens Convention would not apply.

Thumbnail image for costacondoria-space_resize.jpgThe latest information coming out of the office of Italian prosecutor Francesco Verusio is the most damning evidence of recklessness yet on the part of Captain Schettino.

In a new audio recording released Thursday, Captain Francesco Schettino is heard communicating with Livorno port authorities after the ship had hit a reef and before the ship began capsizing. In the exchange, a port authority officer tells Schettino that they have heard from a crew member that there had been a major incident during dinner and that plates and glasses had slammed onto passengers.

Schettino was quick to reassure the officer that everything on board was fine and replied that the incident in question was caused by an electrical blackout and that the crew is “verifying the conditions on board“. Captain Schettino failed to mention that the ship had hit a reef.

New accounts by crew members are beginning to surface six days after the incident. French stewart Thibault Francois told French Television that the captain sounded the alarm too late and did not order or instruct the crew to evacuate the ship until it was too late and the ship had already begun listing on its side and taken in a substantial amount of water. Eventually, crew members started lowering lifeboats on their own.

Francois said “the captain asked us to make announcements to say that it was electrical problems and that our technicians were working on it and to not panic”. “There were no orders from the management,” he added.

Another crew member, Mukesh Kumar who was one of the many ship’s waiter said that “the emergency alarm was sounded very late,” only after the ship “started tilting and water started seeping” in. “The ship shook for a while, and then the crockery stated falling all over,” said Indian Kandari Surjan Singh, who worked in the ship’s galley. “People started panicking. Then the captain ordered that everything is under control and said it was a normal electric fault … so people calmed down after that.As reported by the Associated Press.

cruiseshiplaw.jpgFor additional information about cruise ship litigation and cruise ship law, visit Leesfield & Partners’ Cruise Ship Law Center.

It now sounds that Captain Francesco Schettino attempted to minimize the incident telling the Livorno port authority that the incident was only a blackout and nothing else. He intentionally omitted to advise that the ship had hit a reef. That fact alone unquestionably resulted in the coastal rescue efforts to be delayed by at least 40 minutes. The ship hit the reef at approximately 9:30 p.m. and it is not until 10:10 p.m. that the “Abandon Ship” signal was sounded.

An Italian Judge will have to decide whether lives could have been saved had the port authority been told by Captain Schettino the true nature and potential extent of the seriousness of the incident. The judge will also have to decide whether Captain Schettino was reckless in announcing to passengers that the incident in question was only an electrical issue and that everything was under control. As a result, the evacuation was also delayed until it was clear that the ship was taking water and began capsizing.

In another sad news, the search and rescue efforts found four additional bodies in the wreckage of the ship. The number of fatalities rose to 15. There are still 17 people who remain unaccounted for, including 2 Americans, Barbara Heil and Gerald Heil.

Captain Schettino remains under house arrest. He faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty on charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship.
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A newly released audio exchange between Port Authority and Costa Concordia Captain Fransesco Schettino was released today. Below is the transcript of the exchange:

Captain Schettino: It’s Capt. Schettino.

Port Authority: Schettino, listen to me, there are people trapped onboard, now you go back, you will go with your rescue boat under the stern of the ship, there are some steps, you climb those steps and you get onboard and you get back to me letting me know how many people are on board. Is that clear to you? I am actually recording this conversation captain.

schettino.jpgPort Authority: Speak in a loud voice.

Captain: So, the ship right now …

Port Authority: Speak in a loud voice! Put your hand by the microphone to cover it and speak up! Is that clear?

Captain: So, right now the ship is tilted…

Port Authority: I understand that. Listen to me, there are people that are getting off using the rope ladder on the stern side, you go back there and you go up that ladder the opposite way, you go onboard the ship and you tell me how many people [are there.] And what they need. You tell me if there are children, women or people that need assistance and you give me a number for each one of these categories is that clear?

Captain: Officer, please.

Port Authority: There are no “pleases!” Get back on board! Please assure me that you are going back on board.

Captain: I am here on the rescue boat. I’m right here, I didn’t go anywhere else, I’m here.

Port Authority: What are you doing captain?

Captain: I’m here to coordinate rescue operations.

Port Authority: Do you refuse to do that?

Captain: No, I’m not refusing to do that.

Port Authority: Are you refusing to back on board?

Captain: No, I am not refusing to go back. I am not going because the other rescue boat stopped.

Port Authority: Get back on board! This is an order! You don’t need to make any other assessment. You have declared that you have abandoned ship, therefore I’m in command. Get back on board right now is that clear?

Captain: Officer…

Port Authority: Can you not hear me?

Captain: I’m getting back on board.

Port Authority: Then go! And call me right away when you are on board. There’s my rescuer there.

Captain: Where is your rescuer?

Port Authority: My rescuer is on the stern side, go! There are already bodies, Schettino! Go!

Captain: Officer how many bodies are there?
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Cruise lines have the duty and responsibility to provide a safe environment to their paying customers and to prevent the risk of injury or death of passengers while on a cruise ship. Sadly, every year several passengers who board cruise ships disappear or fall overboard through no fault of their own.

Clip_8.jpgAccording to the Los Angeles Times. Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Steve Yamamoto confirmed that Kelly Ryann Dorrell, a 26-year-old woman, who was a passenger on the Queen Mary ocean liner fell over the handrail from the ship’s fourth story (some 75 feet). In her fall, the woman collided with several parts of the ship and sustained massive trauma to the head before eventually falling into the water. Her boyfriend, who witnessed the fall, jumped in the water in an attempt to rescue the woman, along with two police officers who were nearby.

Some early reports indicate that the woman was drinking at the time and fell overboard after she lost her balance. After being rescued by the firefighters, Kelly Dorrell was transported to the hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead later that day. An autopsy on Dorrell’s body on December 15, 2011 will help to determine the level of blood alcohol content of the deceased at the time of the incident.

In cases where a cruise passenger falls overboard, Leesfield & Partners cruise ship attorneys will look at all legal avenues to determine whether the cruise line met its duties and if the incident could have been prevented:

Defective or Inadequate Handrail:
In the Cruise Ship Safety Act passed by Congress, all cruise ships are required to have handrails at least 42 inches (forty-two) tall. This new law will be effective by January 1, 2012. If a handrail is found to be in violation of the law, and a passenger falls overboard or disappears, the cruise line could be responsible for its own negligence.

Failure to Warn of Bad Weather:
One of the misconceptions of the public at large about to board a cruise ship for the first time is the effect rough weather conditions can have on their safety. Being on a very large ocean liner does not immune cruise passengers from injuries when the ship enters a patch of rough weather. When at sea, cruise lines have the duty to warn its passengers from bad weather as soon as the dangers become known. To fulfill their duties, cruise ships are equipped with radars that detect patches of rough weather far in advance of feeling their effect. Cruise lines can be held liable for failure to warn passengers who injure themselves or fall off the ship during a storm.

Cruise Lines can be held Strictly Liable
In past cases, passengers were pushed overboard by the cruise ship’s crew members. If a passenger dies, disappears or sustains injuries because of a crew member’s violent act, the cruise line will be held strictly liable. Cruise lines have the duty to protect their passengers from violence, especially violent behavior from crew members.

Violence between Passengers
In general, a cruise line will not be held strictly liable for a passenger’s injuries or death caused by the physical assault of another passenger. However, cruise ships may be held liable if it failed to provide adequate security or failed to prevent an assault or contributed in some way to the assault. (Alcohol Consumption)

Alcohol Consumption
Today, most cruise lines allow passengers 21 years of age and older to drink alcohol on the ship. Even though cruise ship employees are trained to request the ID card of passengers, it is not infrequent that teenagers and under-age passengers consume alcohol on cruise ships. Cruise lines also have the duty to limit passengers’ alcohol intake. This self-imposed duty can result in the cruise line’s liability if it is determined that a passenger became intoxicated and fell off the ship.

Rescue Operations
When a passenger is reported missing, cruise lines must perform a reasonable and adequate search and rescue operation. If the cruise line fails to search for a missing passenger or performs an inadequate rescue operation, it may be found liable for the disappearance or death of the passenger.
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