Police have just released information on the October 15, 2015 death of a cruise ship passenger during a shore excursion in Puerto Rico. The passenger, identified by police as Marsha Boekeloo, was a 56-year-old woman from New Mexico. According to police, she fell 20 feet from a zip-line at the Hacienda Campo Rico, located east of Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan. Media reports state that immediately after falling, Boekeloo complained of chest pain and was unable to move her legs. She tragically passed away hours later at a hospital.
The zip-line tour was run by a San Juan based tour company named Ecoquest Adventures & Tours. According to the company’s owner, the park where the zip-line tour was conducted was certified by the Association for Challenge Course Technology (“ACCT”), based out of Illinois. The tour company owner has also been quoted saying that all tour guides are trained in first aid, rescue and risk management and that the park is regularly inspected by the tour guides. The ACCT’s executive director James Borishade has said that the company’s membership with the ACCT actually expired last year. According to Borishade, adventure parks such as Ecoquest, should have yearly third-party inspections. Unfortunately, there is no agency or body to monitor and ensure that yearly inspections are in fact done. It remains unknown what caused Boekeloo to fall and whether the park had undergone a previous third-party inspection. The name of the cruise ship aboard which Boekeloo was traveling also remains unknown.
General maritime law requires cruise lines to warn of known dangers in places where its passengers are invited or expected to visit. General maritime law also requires cruise lines to properly vet the tour operators and excursions offered aboard its cruise ships. This legal obligation is prudently designed to provide cruise passengers with the necessary knowledge and information to make an informed decision as to activities while in ports of call. When a cruise passenger seeks compensation for an injury occurring at a port of call, cruise lines generally seek dismissal of this type of claim. These requests for dismissal are met with varying success. If, however, facts exist showing that the cruise line knew or should have known of a danger with a specific tour operator and/or excursion but failed to warn its passengers, then courts are likely to allow such claims to proceed.