April 21, 2015

Three Passengers Medevaced Off Holland America Cruise Ship to Miami Area Hospitals

Three passengers aboard a Holland America cruise ship Ryndam were medevaced to Miami-area hospitals Monday night due to unrelated medical emergencies. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue revealed that one passengers sustained a leg injury, another suffered a head injury and the third had a heart related condition. Holland America, based in Seattle, Washington, confirmed the passengers aboard the Ryndam required medical evaluations, but did not provide additional details. It is very unusual to have three passengers medevaced off a cruise ship at one time. Local Miami Fox News affiliate reports that one of the passengers was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and another taken to Mercy Hospital.

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April 19, 2015

Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in Jet Ski Crash

Westin Jet Ski Accident.jpgIt is being widely reported that a Carnival cruise passenger was killed in a Jet Ski crash during an excursion in the Cayman Island. The passenger was 31-year-old Robert Cole from Virginia. Media outlets confirm Cole and his travel companion 37-year-old Amy Comer were passengers aboard the Carnival Conquest. Both were thrown into the water when the Jet Ski they were riding collided with another personal water craft operated by a 15-year-boy from New York who was also a Carnival Cruise Line passenger. The accident occurred on Wednesday 15 April just before 1pm near the Westin Resort Hotel. Eyewitnesses stated the teen may have t-boned Cole's Jet Ski.

Cole was provided life saving treatment on shore. Medical emergency personnel responded to the beach and transported Cole and Comer to the hospital. Cole later died. Comer was treated and release while the boy sustained only minor injuries.

April 14, 2015

Hundreds of Passengers Sick aboard Celebrity & Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Cruise Norovirus.jpgThe CDC is reporting that 112 passengers aboard the Celebrity Infinity have come down with an illness causing vomiting and diarrhea. CDC personnel boarded the cruise ship in San Diego on Monday wherein they confirmed the outbreak was caused by Norovirus. This marks the third time the Celebrity Infinity has had a gastrointestinal virus outbreak.

Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean, is also having problems with one of its San Diego based cruise ships. The CDC has reported on Monday that 114 have falling ill with Norovirus like symptoms aboard the Legend of the Seas. The cruise liner is due back in port on Tuesday wherein the CDC will conduct an investigation and hopefully determine the cause of the outbreak.

March 29, 2015

Passenger Arrested for Assault aboard the Carnival Triumph

Carnival Passenger Assault Law.jpgThe FBI has arrested 44-year-old Carnival Triumph passenger Joseph Allen on assault charges resulting in substantial bodily injury as the cruise ship docked at its home port of Galveston, Texas. Carnival Cruise Lines, in a press release, stated this past Wednesday there was a domestic dispute between Allen and his 14-year-old stepson requiring ship security to intervene. Allen was confined to his cabin for the remainder of the cruise. The 14-year-old passenger, after being evaluated by the ship's medical doctors, was recommended to disembark in Cozumel for further medical treatment. The boy, however, finished the cruise. Texas news outlets are reporting that the assault happened on the third day of a six day voyage while the Carnival Triumph was docked in Progreso, Mexico. Allen, who according to the boy's mother was drinking, attacked his stepson in one of the ship's hallways. Other passengers reported the incident to ship security who intervened. Carnival security personnel stated the reason for the attack was that Allen claimed he was tired of being disrespected by the boy. The FBI has jurisdiction over maritime criminal matters occurring on cruise ships away from United States ports.

Photo Credit: KTRK Houston

March 29, 2015

Passengers & Crew Evacuated as Smoke Billows from the Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty Passenger Evactuation.jpgMultiple news sources are reporting that passengers and crew members were evacuated off the Carnival Liberty when smoke emerged from the forward section of the cruise ship. The incident happened last Friday while the 10-year-old, 2,974 passenger cruise ship was docked in St. Maarten. The smoke billowing from the Carnival Liberty sent fire crews racing to the cruise terminal. A spokesperson from the cruise line stated the smoke was caused by an over-heated bearing. The ship left port as scheduled. No injuries have thus far been reported. The Carnival Liberty currently sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cruise ship is scheduled to replace the Carnival Triumph in Galveston,Texas in March 2016. Readers may remember in 2013 the Carnival Triumph lost all power while in the Gulf of Mexico due to an engine room fire and was towed to Alabama for repairs.

March 28, 2015

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Feared Dead

Liberty of the Seas Accident Attorney.bmpThe Coast Guard has called off its search for Frank Slippo, a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger, who fell overboard the Liberty of the Seas. CCTV cameras confirm that the 43-year-old Slippo climbed over the railing at around 9:00pm last Sunday before falling off the cruise ship. The Liberty of the Seas was approximately 20 miles off the Florida Keys when the incident happened. As required by maritime law, Royal Caribbean began a search and rescue mission once it was confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Coast Guard Sector Key West was notified and conducted a 1,734 square nautical mile search lasting more the 57 hours. Slippo is feared dead.

March 23, 2015

Injured Carnival Cruise Passenger Airlifted After Fall

Carnival Cruise Fall Injury.jpgMultiple sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise passenger was airlifted after suffering a fall . The 69-year-old female passenger, whose name has not been released at this time, fell last Thursday night aboard the Carnival Imagination injuring her head. The decision was made to contact the Coast Guard who dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter team. A rescue swimmer from the team was lowered down to secure the woman into the rescue basket before being lifted to the helicopter. The rescue occurred forty miles off the California coast. The passenger was transported to UC San Diego Medical Center for immediate care. It is reported that the passenger sustained significant head trauma from the fall. Though the passenger's head injury from the fall was significant enough to require emergency medical treatment, her condition is unknown at this time.

March 22, 2015

Miami Entrepreneur Michael Cappoini Crashes Boat into Biscayne Bay Seawall

Miami entrepreneur Michael Cappoini was operating his 25’ boat when it collided into a concrete seawall in Biscayne Bay. The crash injured both Cappoini and his guest Brooke Biederman. Cappoini is said to have sustained broken bones and is expected to make a full recovery. Biderman’s injuries were more severe. She was taken to Ryder Trauma Center where she underwent at least one surgery for significant head injury. At last report, Biderman is in critical condition. What makes this incident unique is that the boat is captured by surveillance video seconds before it crashed into the seawall near the Miami Beach Coast Guard Station. The collision, which happened last Friday just after 10 AM, drew the attention of several Coast Guard personnel who rendered immediate assistance. Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is the lead law enforcement agency tasked with investigating the incident.

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March 18, 2015

Passenger Falls Off Galveston Based Cruise Ship

Carnival Triumph.jpgMultiple media sources are reporting that a passenger is believed to have died after falling off a Galveston based cruise ship operated by Carnival. On the evening of March 17, 2015 shipboard personnel aboard the Triumph were notified that a 57-year-old passenger fell overboard while the ship was off the northern coast of Mexico. CCTV video confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Cruise lines have a duty under maritime law to perform a search and rescue mission once it becomes known that someone, whether that person is a passenger or crew member, has fallen overboard. It is reported that the ship notified Mexican authorities and initiated a search and rescue operation. The next morning Mexican authorities found a body believed to be the passenger who fell off the cruise ship. The Triumph was returning to Galveston from a five day Mexican cruise.

March 8, 2015

Barge Sinks in Ft. Pierce Inlet Drowning Deckhand

A 100 foot barge built in 1957 sunk in the Ft. Pierce Inlet drowning a deckhand. The barge was being towed by a 54-foot Gulfstream from Key Biscayne to Georgia. The towing operation was performed by Reed Adams, Charles Griffin, Rodney Grambo and Dominick Tortorice. The decision to attempt the inlet was made when the barge began to take on water offshore. The fast outgoing tide through the inlet proved too much and the half century old barge causing it to break up and sank. Unfortunately, Tortorice did not make it off the barge in time. Reed Adam told media that the barge's superstructure collapsed on Tortorice moments before the vessel when down. Tortorice's body was later found offshore. Authorities suspect the outgoing tide carried his body away from the accident scene.

Ft. Pierce Inlet was closed after the event as the Coast Guard feared other boats may strike the sunken barge causing additional accidents. The inlet has been since reopened to recreational boats with drafts less than six feet upon clearance from an official managing vessel traffic in the area.

The barge has been reported to be in two pieces and has created a debris filed in and around the inlet. Given the swift current in Ft. Pierce Inlet, the depth where the barge sank and its weaken condition, Coast Guard indicated it will be difficult to remove the wreck. The salvage operation is being performed by Resolve Marine Group based out of Ft. Lauderdale. No time table has been set for when the barge will be removed and the inlet completely reopened.

A tug and barge owner owes the deckhands working for it the legal duty to provide a vessel that is seaworthy and reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Should a deckhand become injured or die as a result of an unseaworthy barge, maritime law allows the seaman or his estate to recover certain money damages. The amount of damages depend on the circumstances.

March 6, 2015

Two Passenger Drowning Incidents Occur at Disney's Castaway Cay

Disney Drowning Castaway Cay.jpgTwo drowning incidents occurred at Disney's Castaway Cay last week. Disney Cruise Lines has its own private island in the Bahamas where their passengers could partake in various aquatic activities. These activates include snorkeling, stingray encounters and simply swimming at the beach. With so many aquatic activates comes the danger of passengers drowning. This sadly occurred last week. A 28-year-old passenger from New York drowned while swimming at the adult beach. He was found unresponsive in the water and later pronounced dead by Bahamian authorities. A second incident involved an adult passenger who was snorkeling. The man was found unconscious in the water, was stabilized then evacuated to Miami for additional medical care. His condition is currently unknown.

Even though these incidents occurred off the cruise ship, maritime law governs Disney's legal responsibilities owed to the passenger. The law requires Disney to exercise reasonable care for their passengers' safety. This includes warning of known dangers the passengers may encounter while at Castaway Cay as well as implementing a reasonable safety precautions. Disney is one of the only cruise lines that hire life guards. In is unknown how many life guards were on duty or whether there was a sufficient number to monitor the hundreds of Disney passengers at Castaway Cay.

Our condolences to the family of the passenger who died and our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the passenger who was rescued.

February 27, 2015

South Florida and Legionnaires' Disease and the Law

Miami Legionnaires Disease Law.jpgSouth Florida had its share of Legionnaires' Disease outbreaks over the recent years. Florida's Department of Health defines "Legionnaires' Disease" as an infection caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophilia. Symptoms associated with the disease often include muscle aches, high fever, cough, and chills. Unfortunately, as noted by the Florida Department of Health, this disease "thrive[s] in warm, aquatic environments." The Department and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized yearly in the United States as a result of the disease.

While Legionnaires' is not contagious in the sense that one person can pass it along to another, it can --and usually is-- contracted when a person inhales the bacterium when it is airborne. For example, back in 2009, the disease killed one and caused 300 others to relocate from the EPIC Hotel in Miami. As one news outlet reported, investigators discovered that the hotel's installed water filtration system at the time was so powerful that it removed chlorine from the "city-supplied water source," which in turn caused the bacteria to grow. In this case, the bacterial disease could spread via "contaminated water vapor." In a hotel setting, water sources contaminated with the bacterium can spread through the use of the faucet or shower, specifically through the mist that is emitted from such water.

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February 24, 2015

Boater Negligence and Florida Dive Flag Law

Dive Flag Sign.jpgFlorida SCUBA divers and snorkelers face an all too common threat when engaging in their favorite aquatic activity. That threat is negligent boat operators. In most dive accident cases it is found that the boat operator failed to abide by and/or follow regulations that provide for boating restricted areas. Sadly, this failure to follow the law many times leads to injuries, and sometimes, death.

In 2013 alone, Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FWC") issued 506 citations for "Negligent Operation of a Vessel." When including data on all law enforcement agencies (not just the FWC), 642 uniform boating citations were issued for such a violation. The FWC's Boating Accidents Statistical Report outlines 5 categories that fall within the purview of such a citation: (1) reckless operation of a vessel; (2) careless operation of a vessel; (3) navigation rule violation resulting in an accident; (4) navigation rule violation not resulting in an accident; (5) failure to report an accident. Accordingly, one's negligent operation of a watercraft may overlap with other violations of safety ordinances.

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February 13, 2015

Senator McCain's efforts to repeal Jones Act fails

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite Associated jpgLast month, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sought an amendment to repeal the Jones Act. In a January 13, 2015 Press Release published on his website, Sen. McCain states, "I have long advocated for a full repeal of The Jones Act, an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made the U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers." McCain concludes his statement by calling for his colleagues to "join in this important effort to repeal this archaic legislation to spur job creation and promote free trade." While the Arizona senator is quick to mention the alleged positives that come with repealing the Jones Act, with catch phrases like "job creation" and "free trade," his Press Release fails to address how repealing the Act will eliminate a means of compensation to a large class of employees known as "seamen." Masters, captains, officers, crewmembers, deckhands--to name a few--will all lose a right to sue their employers under a law that's been around for almost a century.

The Jones Act provides a way for employee seamen to hold their employers civilly liable for their injuries, and in more unfortunate cases, death, when such was a result of the employer's negligence. The Act is especially important for seamen given the unique and continuous risks of serious personal injury and death they face on a daily basis. As many courts have noted, by passing the Jones Act, Congress gave seaman a means of obtaining compensation for their injuries, which were "sustained in an inherently dangerous profession." See Am. River Transp. Co. v. Phelps, 189 F. Supp. 2d 835, 849 (S.D. Ill. 2001) (citing Kelley v. Sun Transp. Co., 900 F.2d 1027, 1031 (7th Cir. 1990)).

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February 10, 2015

Everglades Airboat Crash Injures Two

Everglades Airboat Injury.jpgA private and a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission airboat collided in the Everglades last Tuesday injuring two women passengers. The crash happened a mile and a half south of mile marker 34 off I-75 in Broward County around 12:50 p.m. The impact from the accident left the private airboat inoperable. One of the injured women is a 24-year-old University of Florida student who was aboard the Wildlife Conservation Commission preforming research on bats. The other is a 37-year-old woman who sustained more serious injuries. Both injured passengers were placed on the Wildlife Conservation Commission airboat and transported to land before being taken to the hospital. The Marine Division of the Broward County Sheriffs Office is investigating the accident.