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Man_Killed_in_Miami_Beach_Boat_Incident-300x169A tragic boating accident in Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach took the life of Raul Menendez. Menendez of Hialeah, Florida and his friends chartered the luxury yacht Miami Vice for a day of sun and fun in Biscayne Bay. The 91 foot Miami Vice is offered for half day, full day as well as overnight charters via its owner’s website. The yacht ran aground on April 1, 2018 in an area near Monument Island. At some point Menendez entered the water. It is unknown at this time if he fell or jumped into the water. As he was behind the yacht, the operator, 49-year-old Mauricio Alvarez, put the engines in reverse in order the free the yacht from its strand. Menendez was sucked into the propellers and was killed. The yacht was towed to the Miami Beach Coast Guard station pending investigation.

Investigation conducted by law enforcement revealed that Alvarez did not have a Coast Guard license to captain the Miami Vice while on charter. On April 12, 2018, Alvarez was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport attempting to flee the United States to Panama. Alvarez told Federal authorities that he was going to Panama to, “make a better decision of what to do” because he “was scared of being criminally charged.” A Federal Magistrate Judge ordered Alvarez to be detained and he was charged with misconduct and negligence of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual. The charge, if proven, could carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

As Alvarez faces criminal charges, the yacht’s owner can face civil liabilities for the death of Menendez. Maritime law allows the victim, and in this case, his family, the right to bring a civil lawsuit for damages against the yacht captain, the yacht owner and the yacht itself for any and all operational negligence that had a causal relationship to the accident. The Coast Guard requires the yacht to be captained by a licensed operator during all charters. Since Alvarez was not licensed by the Coast Guard, he, and the yacht’s ownership, is presumed under maritime law to be at fault for the accident. A claim of negligence can also be based upon not having a proper lookout posted while operating the yacht in reverse.

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Our lawyers are often contacted by maritime workers who were injured on the job who wish to know what legal rights they have and what type of recovery they may be entitled. The first question that must be addressed is whether or not the maritime worker is a seaman entitled to recovery under the federal Jones Act or a non-seaman entitled to recovery under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Court opinions from time to time provide guidance as to the facts necessary to make this decision.

Facts of the Case

A tug boat struck two crane barges which were spudded down or anchored at a dock facility. The two barges were engaged in constructing a dock at the time of the incident. A worker on one of the crane barges was injured. From this incident, the injured worker brought a claim against the owner of the offending tugboat as well as the company overseeing the dock building seeking various damages, including loss of earnings and earning capacity, pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional trauma. A motion for summary judgment was filed seeking to deem the maritime worker as a seaman who was entitled to the protections of the Jones Act. The company overseeing the dock work opposed the motion.

Injured_Fisherman_ClaimA Federal court recently found determined that a jury is to resolve an injured fisherman Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims .

Facts of the Case

This case involves a personal injury sustained by a professional fisherman aboard a vessel engaged in scalloping.  When fishing for scallops, the vessel the fishermen worked aboard drags along the sea floor two dredges, one on the starboard side and one on the port side.  Every hour, the dredges are winched up and their contents (which includes scallops, bycatch, rocks, and other debris) are dumped on the aft deck in what is known as “the pile.” The dredges are then lowered back to the seafloor, and the crew uses the next hour to pick the scallops out of the pile, deposit them in the shucking house, and return the rocks and bycatch to the sea.  Although the vessel has a non-skid surface on some of the deck, there is an area of the stern deck where the dredges and chain bags are regularly landed that does not. According to the defendants, that is due to the heavy abuse that part of the deck takes, which would cause the coating to wear off in a matter of days.

jetskichannelmarker-300x203A 19-year-old young woman, identified as Sarah Flanagan of League City, Texas was killed when the personal watercraft she was operating on Choctawhatchee Bay was struck by a 30-foot boat operated by 76-year-old Johnny Pope of Shalimar, Florida.

Per news reports, Flanagan was visiting Destin, Florida from Texas and had rented the personal watercraft she was operating.  At the time the accident occurred, she was riding with a group of people.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s initial report, the two vessels collided at a 90-degree angle and upon impact, Flanagan was thrown from the watercraft. A person accompanying Flanagan jumped in the water, pulled her onto his personal watercraft and took her to a nearby marina where he met EMS.  Flanagan suffered extensive head injuries and was pronounced dead at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.  At this time the report does not indicate who was at fault.  Per FWC, there were no signs of impairment in either operator.

Picture by WPTV
The Florida Fish and Wild Life Commission are investigating the death of a male diver that occurred Tuesday early afternoon in North Palm Beach.  Per reports, Luis Alberto Gorgonio-Ixba was working on a 164-foot Westport yacht docked at Old Port Cove Marina cleaning the vessel’s hull when a forward thruster was turned on pulling him face-first when the propellers were engaged. Details of the accident are not yet known and investigators are in the process of gathering witnesses statements.  At this time, Mr. Gorgonio-Ixba’s death has been ruled an accident but the investigation is still underway.

According to an anonymous caller who contacted the Palm Beach Post, she saw Coast Guard boats and other emergency workers rushing to the scene.  Then a man dove into the water and came up a few minutes later yelling”I’ve got him, I’ve got him.”

Mr. Gorgonio-Ixba was a resident of West Palm Beach and was originally from Mexico.  He is survived by two young daughters.  We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gorgonio-Ixba’s family and loved ones.

Rivero-19-Killed-in-Boating-Accident-300x199Chance Rivero, a 19-year-old Vero Beach resident was killed Saturday night when the boat he was a passenger of hit a channel marker, ejecting him from it and into the water.  Per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation the boat, the 17-foot Carolina Skiff was carrying six people on board, heading north in the Indian River Lagoon, when it struck an Intracoastal Waterway channel marker a mile south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.  After the impact, Rivero was thrown into the water and the boat was able to turn around and pull him out of the lagoon.  Michael Ketcham, 20, was also injured in the mishap sustaining lacerations on his spleen and other potential internal injuries.  Although the accident is still under investigation, it appears to be alcohol related.  We extend our deepest condolences to Rivero’s family and loved ones and wish Ketcham a speedy recovery.

 

The Carnival Sensation, a 855 foot cruise ship, returned to the Port of Miami Sunday Morning after a passenger fell ill.  The ship started its voyage the day before was approximately 90 miles from port when a crewmember alerted the Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Result of the medical emergency.   The Sensation arrived near the Port of Miami where the passenger and two family members attempted to disembarked onto a rescue boat.  However, the sea conditions where too rough in open waters.  The cruise she then entered Government Cut, where the transfer took place in calmer waters.  After the passenger disembarked, the cruise ship returned to its scheduled voyage. There has been no update on the passenger’s condition.

Media has reported two separate medevac situations involving the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas occurring over a two week period.  The first incident occurred on March 29th and involved a 70-year-old male passenger who experienced abdominal pains.  Upon reporting the incident to the Coast Guard, a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter along with a C-130 aircraft departed from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina.  The air team met the cruise ship approximately 150 miles Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  The passenger was hoisted onto the helicopter then taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC.

The second incident occurred on April 8th.  This time an 80-year-old male passenger collapsed while the cruise ship was near the Maryland coast.  Coast Guard Station Annapolis launched a 45 foot cutter to intercept the cruise ship.  The passenger, his family and ship medical personnel boarded the rescue boat and were transferred to the Coast Guard Station where emergency response crews were waiting.  Upon arriving ashore, the man was transferred to Anne Arundel Medical Center.  Maryland State Police assisted in the rescue.

Launched in 1996, the Grandeur of the Seas is 915-foot cruise ship which has the capacity of carrying 2,446 passengers and 760 crew.  The cruise ship is conducting regular cruises from Baltimore, Maryland.  The current status of the two passengers are unknown at this time.

Crusie_Passenger_Falls_From_Balcony-300x169A Southern District of Florida judge has recently allowed a case concerning the death of a Carnival Cruise passenger to proceed to the jury.  This case involves couple who were passengers onboard the Carnival Dream.  The cruise was a round trip Mexican voyage leaving from and returning to New Orleans, Louisiana.  On the day in question, the couple were served 22 alcoholic beverages by the cruise line over the course of twelve hours.  Most of the drinks were Long Island Iced Teas which contained high amounts of alcohol.  The couple attended dinner where the husband was inebriated but did not slur his words or stumble.  After dinner the couple went to the ship’s casino.  At the casino bar, the husband fell off the bar stool.  About an hour after the fall in the casino bar, the couple bought a final round of drinks.  The decision was made to go to the ship’s nightclub.  The wife went into the club while the husband stayed behind to finish a cigarette.  He never arrived at the club.  He, instead, went back to the stateroom.  At about 1:00 a.m., the husband fell off the cabin’s balcony onto a deck below.  He died from his injuries.

The wife, as the personal representative of her husband’s estate, brought a negligence claim against Carnival Cruise Lines for its part in overserving alcoholic drinks which allegedly was the proximate cause of his death.  The cruise line filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to find as a matter of law that it was not negligent.  Under maritime law, a cruise line owes its passengers the duty of reasonable care for their safety and well being.  As part of this legal duty cruise lines must take reasonable steps to protect an intoxicated passenger from danger.  Cases addressing this legal duty require a showing that the cruise line should have been aware that the passenger was subject to an impending danger from the over-service of alcohol.  As such, the behavior exhibited by the intoxicated passenger is relevant to whether a jury could find the cruise line was on notice.

The issue addressed in the motion is whether the husband’s actions leading up to his death placed Carnival on notice that he was at risk of falling off a cabin balcony.  The wife argued that Carnival’s drink servers and bartenders training requires them to observe behavioral sings of intoxication which should have alerted the cruise line to the husband’s intoxication.  The wife also testified at deposition that her husband showed visible signs of intoxication which included falling off a barstool.  The cruise line pointed to the facts that the husband did not slur his words at dinner and disputed the reason for him falling off the stool.

Knorr-Overboard-MSC-Divina-300x193Authorities are reporting a 74-year-old passenger on-board MSC Divina is missing and presumed overboard.  The man’s disappearance comes just days after a 22-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman went overboard the Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas and the Queen Mary 2, respectively.

According to reports, Mr. Jeon Pierre Knorr, a French citizen traveling with his wife stepped onto the room’s balcony for some fresh air at approximately 3:00 a.m. on Monday and did not return. When his wife got up several hours later, she realized he had not returned and reported him missing.

The circumstances of his fall, however, remain unknown.  Cruise ship officials searched the entire cruise ship and made callouts through the public announcement system with no success.

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