Articles Posted in Maritime Wrongful Death

On December 9th, 2019, the volcano on White Island, New Zealand, erupted while 47 tourists were visiting the Island at the time.  Of those, 18 have officially been declared dead, 17 sustained serious burns, and 8 people are missing and presumed dead per publicly available reports. The small Island volcano is privately owned by an Auckland family trust, and as such, only operators with permits were authorized to accompany tourists on guided tours of the Island.  White Island Tours was reportedly one of the main authorized tour companies on White Island at the time. The only way to and from the Island is via small inflatable dinghies with tour costs ranging from $229 per adult by boat, to $730 a passenger by helicopter. Tourists on the Island at the time were from Germany, Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia and New Zealand – and 9 people from the United States. New reports indicate that an estimated 38 guests and crew from of the mega cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, were on the Island at the time of the disaster. Last week a New Zealand police Commissioner announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.

This disaster raises serious question why tourists and passengers were allowed, and even encouraged (through brochures and advertising, etc.), to visit this active volcano under existing circumstances. To answer this question, below find historical facts and recommendations from recognized experts (both before and after the December 9th, 2019 eruption).

In a recent article, Monash University professor, Ray Cas, reported Whakaari-White Island is too risky for tourists. “White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years. Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited Island volcano by boat and helicopter… In a big volcanic incident, it would be impossible to get people off quickly,” says Professor Cas.

Photo: CBS Interactive Inc. 18 cruise passengers were seriously injured, at least 11 fatally, while on their way to a shore excursion to the ancient Maya ruins at Chaccoben, Mexico, which was sold and advertised by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. Eight of the individuals killed are of American citizenship, others killed include two Swedes, one Canadian and one Mexican. Sadly, as reports of the incident were issued by various news reporting agencies, the number of individuals killed kept increasing.

Per reports, approximately 31 cruise passengers were riding on a shore excursion bus on their way to the Maya ruins when the reportedly speeding bus overturned sending many flying to the side of the road; injuring 18 and killing at least 11 passengers.  The passengers were from the Celebrity Equinox and the Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, both of which are owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and that sailed from Port Everglades on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those affected. Continue Reading

Airboat-Flips-Killing-TWo-Men-300x161Two boaters were found dead Sunday night around 8:30 p.m. following their airboat flipping at around 5:00 p.m. near the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp in central Brevard.  Four men were on the airboat at the time of the accident; two were able to make it to shore without incident and two others went missing in the water.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Brevard County Sheriff’s officials responded to the scene of the accident and spent several hours searching for the two missing men with the assistance of the Brevard Sheriff’s office agricultural unit and dive team as well as the agency’s helicopter.  The bodies of the two drowned men were located at approximately 8:30 p.m.  They are described as men between the ages of 70-80 and it remains unknown whether they were wearing life jackets.   The area where the incident occurred is a popular tourist stop for those interested in flat-bottom boat rides.  We extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of these two men.

This incident is the second airboat incident in less than a month.  In late October, we wrote about another airboat incident involving an airboat that crashed head-on into a tree at a high rate of speed and which resulted in critical injuries to two of the fifteen passengers.  Florida law does not require boaters to obtain a license.  A boating safety course is required for anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more.  Still, the law provides several exemptions.  Additionally, with respect to airboats, there are no separate education requirements.

Our board certified attorneys are highly experienced in handling wrongful death claims resulting from airboat collisions.  With accidents involving airboats, there are several important considerations such as whether the accident occurred on navigable waters, whether the airboat was properly maintained and inspected, and if a tour company was involved, whether the tour company and tour guide were properly licensed.

 

John Skylar Brogdon (Family Photo )Two boats collided on Saturday morning at Lake Talquin in Leon County, Florida resulting in the disappearance of a 10-year-old boy. According to reports, the collision occurred due to miscommunication between the two boats.  Two adults, a man and a woman, from one of the vessels were injured and were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.  The 10-year-old, John Skylar Brogdon, was reported missing following the accident.  According to a family member of the boy, they were fishing and had visited a few fishing holes when John wanted to use the restroom.  As the boat was headed to the landing for John to use the restroom, the accident occurred.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the accident and jointly conducted a search and rescue operation for the boy starting at around 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon and continuing into Monday morning.  Per reports there are approximately 15 divers searching for the child.  Family members and friends are also helping, bringing their own boats to help with the search, which has unfortunately turned into a recovery operation.  As of Sunday afternoon, law enforcement was awaiting for the arrival of sonar equipment to assist in the search.

The cause of the accidents remains under investigation by FWC.

(Matthew Hinton/Advocate via AP)An oil platform on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana exploded on Sunday night injuring seven workers and resulting in the disappearance of 44-year-old Timothy Morrison of Katy, Texas.  US Coast Guard conducted a search for the missing worker for close to 24 hours until announcing Monday night that the search would be suspended.  Per officials, the platform is a natural gas storage location that feeds from other nearby rigs and is located approximately a mile and a half from the Kenner Boat Launch in Jefferson Parish and is owned by Clovelly Oil Co.

According to preliminary investigations, it appears that cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform leading to the explosion.  A cause of the blast has not yet been identified.  Arson investigators are expected to determine the cause once the fire has been extinguished.  Nearby residents described the sound of the explosion as a “sonic boom” coming from the lake.

Eight workers were aboard the platform at the time of the explosion. Seven were rescued and taken to hospitals with blast-type injuries and burns. Four of the workers have since been discharged.  We extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Morrison’s family and loved ones and wish all survivors involved a speedy recovery.

The law applicable to these type of incidents is particularly complex and highly dependent on the type of platform involved, whether fixed or floating.  If the platform is a floating platform found to be a “vessel,” an injured worker may be considered a Jones Act seaman and thus entitled to damages for medical costs, physical pain, mental anguish, loss of earning capacity, etc. Notably, practically any type of equipment that can be used for transportation over water qualifies as a “vessel.” See Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co., 543 U.S. 481 (2005). In contrast, if it is determined that the platform was a fixed offshore platform, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA or OCS Lands Act) makes the law of the adjacent state applicable as surrogate federal law and the worker will not be allowed to bring the usual seaman claims unless he is independently associated with a vessel.

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Boat-Crash-Kills-1-2-injured-300x163A personal watercraft crashed into a boat on Sunday at approximately 8:00 p.m. on Lake Louise in Windermere, Florida. Larry Marin, 37, the operator of the personal watercraft was pronounced dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital.  Glorimar Correa, 40, the passenger on the personal watercraft and William Bryant, 39, the operator of the boat were both transferred to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.  Per reports, the watercraft crashed into the boat with such force that it sank the personal watercraft.  Witness, Carina Lee Rodriguez said her friends rescued the victims from the water and took them ashore.  She reported the female victim could not breath and couldn’t feel her legs and the man, presumably Marin, was bleeding.  Orange County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit responded to the scene and continues to investigate.

 

 

Florida_Maritime_Death_Remedies-300x235Florida maritime death claim remedies for non-seamen vary depending upon whether the death occurred in territorial waters or the high seas.

Deaths Occurring on Territorial Waters

Territorial waters are generally considered as rivers, bays, lagoons, estuaries and nearshore. Florida declares a territorial sea nine miles off its Gulf coast and the farther of three miles off its Atlantic coast or to the western edge of the Gulf Stream. See, Fla. Const., Art. II, Sec. 1.  The United States declares a twelve-mile territorial sea. See, Proclamation No. 5928.  Deaths which occur in territorial waters are governed by Federal maritime common law and supplemented by Florida’s wrongful death statute.

Child_Falls_Carnival_Glory-300x225A Girl has died after a fall from a Carnival cruise ship at the Port of Miami.  Reports reveal that the 8-year-old girl fell two stories from the interior atrium aboard the Carnival Glory Saturday morning.  Shortly after the incident, a retired paramedic started preforming resuscitation efforts.  The ship contacted Miami-Dade Fire Rescue which took over resuscitation efforts and transported the child to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead hours later.  The Carnival Glory had just returned to the Port of Miami after completing a 7-day Caribbean voyage when the incident occurred.   This is the third incident in recent times were a child has fallen over a railing aboard Carnival cruise ship.  On August 4th, a three-year-old girl fell from the balcony onto the lido deck aboard the Carnival Breeze.  In June, 2016, another three-year-old girl slipped through the rail of a Carnival Liberty ship from the 14th deck to the 12th deck.  Thankfully, both children survived those falls.

 

Photo credit: Pepin AcademiesDr. Craig Butz, 52, of Altamonte Springs was operating a personal watercraft with his 4-year-old daughter as a passenger when his jet ski collided with a center console boat operated by Thomas Carey, 67, of Clearwater. The collission happened near 941 Bay Esplanade near Clearwater Beach around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday. Dr. Butz was taken to Morton Plant Hospital in critical condition where he died upon arrival. His 4-year-old daughter was airlfited to Bayfront Health Hospital where she remains in critical condition. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is currently investigating the incident.

Dr. Butz was Executive Director of Pepin Academies, a charter school for children with learning disabilities. We extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Butz’s family and loved ones and wish his young child a speedy recovery.

 

Two-Killed-in-Jet-Ski-Allission-300x218Two tourists are reported dead after the 10-foot Yamaha Waverunner they were riding on slammed into a concrete bridge support in the area of the Bridge Road Causeway, north of the MacArthur Causeway.

Sabrina Daniels, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia and Julio Monteiro, 30, of Brockton, Massachusetts traveled with friends to attend the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival.  On Monday, the group of friends rented a yacht near Star Island and took turns riding jet skis.  At about 5:30 p.m. Monteiro was driving the watercraft traveling eastbound towards the causeway, when both he and Daniels were ejected into the water after hitting the concrete bridge arch.

Daniels and Monteiro were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where they died from their injuries.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is currently investigating the crash.