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Articles Posted in Cruise Injury and Maritime Law

covid-19-4855709_640-300x200As COVID-19 continues to keep most of the world on lockdown with ‘Safer at Home’ orders extended, there are many people still stranded on cruise ships. It has been reported that some cruise lines are currently working with the CDC to resolve the current “No Sail Order” and problem releasing their crew members.

While there are literally thousands of crew members left stranded at sea with no known date of when they can set foot on land, the sad reality is that they can continue to contract the novel coronavirus while being trapped and quarantined aboard a cruise ship. 

Perhaps the most troubling piece of information is that recent reports have indicated that the cruise line industry knew about the coronavirus problem on their ships, but continued to sail anyways. This neglect on their part very well could have helped fuel this crisis, causing countless individuals to become infected. With that said, if you contracted coronavirus or lost a loved one due to COVID-19 onboard a cruise ship, you may be able to join a class-action lawsuit with other crew and passengers infected with COVID-19.

covid-19-4855709_640-300x200In early 2020 the coronavirus began spreading across the world leaving millions of people in one of the most dangerous and isolated places during a pandemic: a cruise ship.

It is unknown how many passengers and crew got sick or died from COVID-19. No global health body or regulatory agency is known to be tracking those statistics as of now, but we know the numbers will be alarming.

The cruise industry downplayed the dangers to consumers and kept sending out ships despite outbreaks on board and warnings from public health officials. This industry has stayed pretty silent about the death toll.

However, the Miami Herald began tracking outbreaks on board. As of publication, reporters found that at least 2,592 people have tested positive for COVID-19 during or directly after a cruise and at least 65 people have died, according to a database built by the Herald. That is far more than the industry or public health officials have acknowledged. It’s also likely not the complete picture.

The Herald found COVID-19 cases linked to at least 54 ocean-going cruise ships — roughly one-fifth of the global ocean cruise fleet. That number could grow as more cases are reported.

Reporters gathered the data using records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foreign health departments, news reports, cruise companies and interviews with passengers and crew.

The cruise industry notes that it is possible that some of these people got COVID-19 from a source other than the ship they were on. It is also likely that other passengers and crew contracted the virus without developing symptoms or getting tested.

It is clear that passengers and crew paid the price for the industry’s decision to keep travel going. In early February the Diamond Princess ship was sequestered in Japan after a COVID-19 outbreak that left hundreds infected. This was a clear warning about how dangerous the new coronavirus is on cruise ships.

On March 8, the CDC alerted Americans to stay away from cruising, citing increased risk of COVID-19. Regardless of the warnings, some cruise ships left port on passenger voyages after the travel advisory. At least eight of those ships logged cases of COVID-19, resulting in at least 309 cases of the disease, or 12% of the total known cruise-related cases, the Herald analysis shows. At least three of those people died.

Some ships carried the disease from one cruise to the next. After the disease broke out on the first voyage, the number of cases generally exploded on the subsequent voyages.

While some passengers went straight to the hospital, many sick people returned to their homes, sometimes on commercial flights. Meanwhile, thousands of crew members found themselves marooned at sea in quarantine. As of publication, at least 922 crew members have been infected and at least 11 have died from COVID-19.

The CDC issued a no-sail order in U.S. waters on March 14 — one day after the industry had already agreed to stop new cruises. But cruises still underway continued, sometimes searching for weeks for a port that would accept the ships.

Ships with COVID-19 cases come from all four of the world’s largest cruise lines: Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — all based in Miami — and MSC Cruises, along with a number of smaller lines.

A male passenger from Miami reluctantly boarded Carnival’s Costa Luminosa cruise in Fort Lauderdale on March 5. He was nervous about COVID-19, but the company wasn’t offering refunds. The cruise was scheduled to go to Puerto Rico and Antigua before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Three days into the cruise, a woman with COVID-19 symptoms was taken off the ship and hospitalized in Puerto Rico. Antigua turned the ship away, and instead of returning to port in Florida, Carnival decided to sail the Luminosa to Europe. The company waited seven days to isolate passengers and give crew members masks and gloves even as more and more people got sick. At least four passengers and one crew member died. Dozens more fell ill, the Herald’s data shows.

The man and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 after disembarking. They both recovered.

Since the pandemic began, the industry has tried to downplay the severity of the crisis.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company, has maintained that “very few” ships have been affected by COVID-19. (At the time of publication, 17 percent of the company’s ships have been linked to coronavirus.)

“Cruise ships are not the cause of the virus, nor are they the reason for the spread in society,” Donald said last week. “It’s not a dramatic impact compared to how the community spread occurred around the world.”

In an April 15 interview with CNBC, Donald said that passengers in many cases “are at far less risk in a cruise environment than other environments.”

“We have really high standards on cruise ships in dealing with any kind of health risk,” he said. “You don’t go to many places where you have medical records, where there is temperature scanning, there’s lots of deep cleaning going on often and all the time.”

The CDC has warned repeatedly of the increased risk of COVID-19 infection on cruise ships, saying social distancing and thorough disinfecting are difficult to implement on board.

As the rest of the world watched the coronavirus consume China, still unaware of the severity of the sickness, the cruise industry was right there to witness the catastrophic reality.

In mid-February, the largest coronavirus outbreak outside of China engulfed Carnival’s Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in a Japanese port. Hundreds fell sick. At least eight people died.

In response, companies restricted boarding to exclude people who had recently traveled to China, Hong Kong and Macau. But cruise ships were business as normal. Here’s how it went down, according to the Herald’s report:

The week of Feb. 25

Caribbean countries began turning away cruise ships, a clear sign of what was to come.

By the time the industry closed down weeks later, several ships would be stranded at sea with dying people on board and nowhere to dock.

March 7

Even as the pandemic worsened, the Trump administration stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the cruise companies.

Meeting with industry executives in Fort Lauderdale, one of the busiest U.S. ports, Vice President Mike Pence assured the nation it was “safe for healthy Americans to travel.”

Adam Goldstein, CLIA’s chairman, said the companies were prepared to pay for the transfer of sick passengers and crew to hospitals.

“Given the significance of travel and tourism, it is critical that Americans keep traveling,” Goldstein said. “And yes, we also recognize this is an unprecedented situation with COVID-19. Our commitment here today and going forward is to work closely with government and go above and beyond what we are currently doing.”

That day, one person who worked at Port Everglades as a passenger greeter for a Carnival Corp. subcontractor tested positive, followed by two more in the following days.

Reluctant passengers who didn’t want to lose their money boarded cruise ships, trusting that companies would not be operating if it weren’t safe. Cruise companies weren’t offering refunds, but they were upping cleaning routines on ships and denying boarding to people who had recently traveled to disease hotspots.

Crew members had no choice but to return to sea.

March 8

The CDC and the State Department alerted all Americans to avoid cruise travel, citing an increased risk of COVID-19 infection on ships. At least 1,791 passengers and crew on cruises that left before the advisory were infected, the Herald’s analysis shows.

March 9

The morning after the travel alert, cruisers still came to PortMiami to fill out health questionnaires so they could board.

Despite the clear CDC warning, the White House’s coronavirus task force said that the cruise lines were working on stronger safety protocols to continue cruises. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said elderly people with underlying health conditions should avoid cruising.

Meanwhile, CDC and California health officials prepared to transport more than 2,000 cruise ship passengers from Carnival’s Grand Princess to hospitals for care or military bases for quarantine after a COVID-19 outbreak on that ship. Herald data show at least 125 passengers and 19 crew from the ship have tested positive, and at least five people have died.

March 11

CLIA sprang into action on Capitol Hill to try to fend off a government-ordered industry shut-down. Lobbyists met with the Florida House delegation to discuss proposals to curb infections on their ships, including barring people over the age of 70 from boarding. More passengers boarded ships. Others hopped off to visit ports around the world.

Around 550,000 passengers were on cruises on March 11, according to CLIA, the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 12

Princess Cruises, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., was the first to stop cruising. The line canceled all new cruises for the next 60 days after government-led quarantines on two of its ships.

March 13

The rest of the North American cruise fleet followed on March 13, announcing a 30-day pause.

South Florida governments proclaimed their support. Miami-Dade County waived its docking fees, allowing cruise companies to bring their ships to PortMiami at a discount, and offered to turn a warehouse into a triage center to isolate infected passengers.

The industry is an important economic player in South Florida; along with bringing millions of tourists, cruise lines paid nearly $77 million and $60 million in passenger fees to PortMiami and Port Everglades, respectively, in fiscal year 2018.

President Donald Trump tweeted, “It is a great and important industry – it will be kept that way!”

By March 17, the CDC elevated its travel warning to require cruise passengers to self-isolate for 14 days after disembarking.

Despite his persistent public plugs for a cruise industry bailout, Trump signed into law on March 27 a federal coronavirus stimulus bill that excludes cruise companies. The companies claim exemption from U.S. income taxes because they are incorporated in foreign countries and register almost all of their ships abroad, too.

Two days later, Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to turn away a ship full of sick people seeking refuge in a Florida port.

Some ships that were able to get back to port quickly after March 13 offloaded thousands of cruise passengers without any screening from companies or governments.

Passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney, Australia, on March 19 walked right off the ship and scattered across the world—despite many showing symptoms of COVID-19. At least 647 people, including 202 crew members, have tested positive, and at least 22 people have died. The ship is the largest source of COVID-19 cases in Australia, and is at the center of a criminal investigation in that country.

Passengers on the MSC Meraviglia disembarked in Miami on March 15 without any screening after a passenger on the previous voyage tested positive. At least two passengers who got off the ship that day contracted COVID-19.

Other ships, like Carnival’s Zaandam and Coral Princess, were forced to sail for more than a week to reach Florida’s shores in early April after every country in the Western hemisphere with a cruise port turned them away.

At least five passengers from the Zaandam tested positive for COVID-19. All of them died, as did one of the crew members who tested positive.

On March 20, the lead physician on the Coral Princess wrote passengers a letter.

“Rest assured that, relatively speaking, Coral Princess is probably one of the safest places in the world to be at this time,” the doctor wrote.

Since then, at least eight passengers and five crew tested positive for COVID-19, and at least two passengers have died from the disease. The ship docked in Miami.

After offloading passengers, ships became incubators for crew infections. Approximately 120 cruise ships with more than 80,000 crew on board are currently sailing in U.S. waters; at least 20 have known or suspected COVID-19 infections, according to the CDC.

During the last passenger cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, the company alerted the CDC of a possible COVID-19 infection on board. On March 26, the company sent an email to passengers from the voyage to warn them that someone on their cruise had tested positive.

The company waited until March 28 — nearly two weeks after first learning of a possible infection — to warn the crew still on board of their exposure and isolate them. At least 14 crew members have tested positive.

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line encouraged crew on its Norwegian Encore ship, docked at PortMiami, to take advantage of activities normally off limits to workers like passenger buffets and pools and gyms, even as more people fell ill. Meanwhile on land, city governments and public health officials warned the public to stay in their homes.

One crew member who was able to leave the Encore tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.

Some crew members will never make it home.

As of publication, at least eleven crew members have died from COVID-19 — four of them in South Florida hospitals.

Citing continued COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among crew who remain on cruise ships, on April 9 the CDC extended the halt on cruise operations in U.S. waters until late July, or until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and required the industry to implement a plan to immediately mitigate outbreaks on ships.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a nightmare for everyone, but especially those passengers that were stuck on board a ship with the deadly virus. And sadly, we know now, this is a tragic situation that very well could have been avoided. Cruise lines knew about the dangers of COVID-19, and the very real risks of passenger exposure, but they made the choice to continue cruising. The passengers on board continued with life as normal while the rest of the world was being told to stay safe at home.

As more investigations confirm just how much cruise line operators knew before setting sail, it will be likely that many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits will arise. Severe injuries or wrongful death aboard a cruise ship are nothing any passenger prepares to experience, but the reality is that these events can happen. When a cruise line’s careless or negligent actions are to blame, our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you file your own lawsuit or join a current lawsuit to secure financial compensation.

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royal-caribbean-665682_640-300x181Two Royal Caribbean crew members — one from the Symphony of the Seas and one from the Oasis of the Seas — were “medically evacuated” from their respective ships Monday at Port Everglades, the cruise line confirmed.

Even though Royal Caribbean would not confirm whether the members have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a spokesman for the company said the crew members were evacuated “for observation and treatment of respiratory issues.”

Ellen Kennedy at Port Everglades said: “It’s a Coast Guard mission. Port Everglades is not involved.”

Late Monday the Coast Guard confirmed that Coast Guard Sector Miami watch standers monitored two medical evacuations, one from each of the cruise ships. “The vessels arranged commercial transfer ashore of each patient for further transportation to local area hospitals,” the Coast Guard said.

Both ships were located just outside the port Monday. Royal Caribbean canceled all cruises March 13 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Miami Herald, a crew member on Oasis said Monday that “the ship is coming into port due to a crew member who’s really ill but not the coronavirus.” 

It is known that there are 14 people on board who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus & Cruise Ships

Cruise ship lawsuits involve an injury or illness of some kind. When only one person on board falls ill it can be difficult to prove fault with the cruise ship, making it tough to build a winning case. But, when a massive outbreak is involved, it can be much easier to prove that the cruise ship was at fault for the spread.

COVID-19, the novel coronavirus currently classified as a global pandemic, has already caused lots of commotion on several cruise ships, and the virus was only discovered last December. As of now, lawsuits have started emerging against cruise ship companies for their negligence and recklessness in the way they handled the spread of the disease on board.

Falling ill on a cruise ship is already hard enough, but these warning signs could indicate there is a much bigger problem on board: 

  • How many other people on board are sick
  • If any passengers are quarantined
  • If the ship’s hospital is at or over max capacity
  • If the crew issues any health warnings or announcements
  • If the crew members on board start taking extra precautions about spreading an illness 
  • If the ship deviates from its original itinerary in any way

Were you on board a cruise ship that failed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while you were on board? Our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you file your own lawsuit or join a current lawsuit, like those against the owner of the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess.

Accidents on Cruise Ships are Common 

While the spread of the coronavirus on cruise ships is currently a new and widespread issue, accidents aboard luxury liners are nothing new.  

Other reasons for filing a lawsuit against a cruise ship may include one of the following scenarios: 

  • Food poisoning from food or another illness from unsanitary conditions
  • Legionnaires’ Disease, which is caused by a bacterium which is common in settings like cruise ships
  • Medical malpractice
  • A passenger getting lost at sea or falling overboard 
  • Physical or sexual assault by a crew member or passenger
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Swimming pool and waterslide injuries

Whittel & Melton Can Help You 

There are six cruise ship terminals throughout the state of Florida that thousands of people travel to and from every year. These include: 

  • PORT OF MIAMI (Miami)
  • PORT EVERGLADES (Fort Lauderdale)
  • PORT CANAVERAL (Orlando)
  • PORT TAMPA BAY (Tampa)
  • JAXPORT (Jacksonville)
  • PORT OF PALM BEACH (Palm Beach)

Cruise lines with ports in Florida include:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Hapag-LLoyd Cruises
  • MSC Cruises
  • Virgin Voyages
  • Seabourn Cruise Line
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruise 
  • AIDA Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • P&O Cruises 
  • Regent Seven Seas
  • Balearia Caribbean
  • Costa Cruises
  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection
  • Silversea Cruises

If you have suffered an injury or illness, including the coronavirus, while aboard one of these or any other cruise lines cruise ship, contact our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. Cruise ship cases generally have a short and strict statute of limitations.

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cruise-1578528_640-150x150As countries are sealing off their borders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, cruise ships have been left stranded in the Caribbean, South America and Europe, with local governments denying permission to disembark as more cases of infected passengers have come to light.

Some ships have been denied port, leaving them to anchor off the coast of a country. Other cruises have docked with quarantined passengers aboard.

Three cruise ships have confirmed cases of coronavirus on board: the MS Braemar, Silver Shadow and Silver Explorer.

Here is the status of the cruise ships stranded. 

MS Braemar

Status: In the Bahamas, heading towards Cuba

A cruise ship with confirmed coronavirus cases is headed to Cuba after days of searching for a place to dock after it was refused several ports of entry in the Caribbean.

Five people aboard the MS Braemar tested positive for the virus, according to a statement from British company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which owns the Braemar.

22 passengers and another 21 crew members, including a doctor, are in isolation after displaying influenza-like symptoms while traveling on the ship, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said.

Until Tuesday morning, the Braemar was anchored about 25 miles offshore in the Bahamas, being resupplied with vital food, fuel and medication.

The United Kingdom entered into discussions with authorities in Cuba and the US to find a suitable port for the Braemar, according to British government sources familiar with the efforts.

Cuba said it will receive the ship. Braemar is now en route to the port of Mariel. The captain Jozo Glavic announced on board that all guests will be repatriated back to the UK by air.

The cruise line said those who are infected will have their own plane.

The cruise line is working with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to firm up details, and with Public Health England to confirm further requirements once passengers are back in the UK.

Fred Olsen’s UK office has set up a dedicated Braemar Relative Support team, for those anxious about family members on board.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said that once all ships currently at sea return home, the “cruise operation will then pause all ocean cruise operations until 23rd May.”

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office expressed gratitude to the Cuban authorities for their support.

Silver Shadow

Status: Docked in Brazil, passengers in isolation

A Canadian passenger tested positive for coronavirus Saturday on the Silver Shadow, which is docked off the port of Recife in Brazil, according to Brazil’s state news agency Agencia Brasil.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the case on the Silver Shadow on Sunday.

“Two guests aboard the Silver Shadow have been medically disembarked in Recife, Brazil, and one has tested positive for COVID-19,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

The ship’s 609 passengers have been in isolation since Thursday when a passenger showed symptoms similar to coronavirus, Agencia Brasil said on Friday.

One of the passengers who disembarked, a 78-year-old man from Canada, had a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. He was sent to a private hospital in the city.

Silver Explorer

Status: Docked in Chile, one passenger tested positive

The Silver Explorer docked in Castro, Chile, on Saturday after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus, Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich said during a press conference in Santiago Saturday.

An 83-year-old British man is in “good condition” and being treated at the Coyhaique Hospital after testing positive, Manalich said. Royal Caribbean, which owns the Silver Explorer, confirmed the coronavirus case on Sunday.

“One guest aboard the Silver Explorer has been medically disembarked in Castro, Chile, also testing positive for the virus,” the statement said.

The cruise ship is carrying 111 passengers and 120 crew members, according to Chilean officials.

Golden Princess

Status: Cleared to set sail for Australia

While no one has tested positive for coronavirus on the Golden Princess anchored off New Zealand, at least three passengers have been quarantined by the ship’s doctor, according to local health officials.

One passenger developed symptoms similar to coronavirus and was being treated as a suspected case, according to the Canterbury District Health Board. Two other passengers had contact with a confirmed case in the past two weeks.

The ship is anchored in Akaroa Harbor near Christchurch so there could be “precautionary health testing” of guests who traveled on an international flight from Los Angeles. The flight had a passenger who later tested positive for coronavirus in Australia. The cruise line said the airline passenger who tested positive has never been on board its ship.

The passenger with respiratory symptoms tested negative for coronavirus. The Golden Princess was cleared to leave and set sail for Australia.

Norwegian Jewel

Status: Stranded in the South Pacific Ocean, no cases reported

The Norwegian Jewel is searching for a port in the Pacific Ocean after being denied permission to dock at two previously scheduled ports, Norwegian Cruise Line said.

The ship is at sea in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Suva, Fiji, as of Sunday evening.

The cruise was scheduled to disembark Sunday in Papeete, French Polynesia, but the port was canceled, the company said. Another scheduled port of Lautoka, Fiji, on March 17 was also canceled.

“We are actively working to find an alternative port and are communicating with guests regularly as we have further information,” the cruise line said in a statement.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced suspension of services from March 13 – April 11. “Voyages that are underway will conclude and guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements,” said the cruise line in a statement

Pacific Princess

Status: At sea in the Indian Ocean, heading to Fremantle, Australia, but docking rights uncertain

Pacific Princess, owned by Princess Cruises, departed in January for its 111 day around the world voyage.

Stopovers at Bali, Singapore and Phuket were canceled, due to fears over coronavirus.

The Pacific Princess was later refused entry by Sri Lanka while en route.

The ship was refused at the Seychelles, and abandoned its subsequent trek to Zanzibar, as more ports started to close.

The ship is currently heading to Fremantle, Australia, due to arrive March 21.

But Australia has closed ports to cruise ships, so this destination remains uncertain.

Costa Luminosa

Status: En route to Marseille

Two guests on board this ship, one German and one Danish, tested positive for coronavirus, according to Costa Cruises.

These passengers were placed in isolation after displaying symptoms, and later disembarked in Puerto Rico on March 8, where they were hospitalized.

“A third guest was also disembarked after being identified through the temperature check that is performed on board according to protocol,” said Costa Cruises in a statement.

The cruise company said it has suspended operations until April 3, and Luminosa is currently heading towards Marseille, France.

Costa Cruises confirmed that a 68-year-old male passenger with a history of cardiac issues contracted coronavirus. He was disembarked in Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, on February 29. The passenger later passed away.

The Cayman Islands government press release dated March 14 states the patient had two cardiac arrests while on board the cruise ship and was resuscitated, before he passed away in intensive care on Grand Cayman.

Families of those on Luminosa have been active on social media, expressing their frustration.

Cruises to Disembark

The Celebrity Eclipse is anchored in San Antonio, Chile. Celebrity Cruises is working with government officials to provide a controlled disembarkation plan to make sure guests have a way to leave the country, a spokesperson said.

The Azamara Pursuit, which is off the coast of Chile, is working on a plan to disembark passengers and get them home safely. The ship left Ushuaia, Argentina, on March 8 carrying 675 passengers and 389 crew members, Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich said Saturday.

P&O Cruises announced suspension of any new cruises until April 11, 2020, with current cruises currently heading back to Southampton, England.

The Balmoral, another Fred Olsen Cruise Line ship, arrived in Southampton on March 18. Fred Olsen’s Boudicca ship is due to arrive in Dover, also in England, on March 19, while the Black Watch is currently cruising to Southampton, due to arrive on March 17.

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‘No signs of life’ on New Zealand’s White Island following deadly volcanic eruption

A volcano erupted Monday on a small New Zealand island frequented by tourists, leaving at least five people dead and others injured, some of whom were members of a tour group from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas.” 

The eruption sent a large plume of steam and ash into the sky around 2 p.m. local time on White Island. 

Police said they believed there were fewer than 50 people present at the time of the eruption on the volcanic island, but at least five were confirmed killed.

There are a number of people on the island who are unaccounted for, however. Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to be involved. 

At least 10 people were said to be unaccounted for, and police said in a later statement that after conducting overflights, that they do not believe there are any survivors on the island.

According to reports, police are “working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already.”

At least some of those injured and missing were members of a tour group from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas,” the police confirmed. The number of cruise passengers affected and their nationalities were not clear, but the Florida-based cruise line confirmed in a statement to CBS News that “a number of our guests were touring the island.” 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 24 of the cruise passengers who were visiting the island were from his country.

Royal Caribbean said its ship Ovation of the Seas would remain docked “as long as needed to assist with the situation.” 

St. John medical responders said in a statement they believed there were 20 people on the island who were injured and in need of medical treatment. It said it had dispatched seven helicopters to the island with paramedics aboard.

White Island, also known by its indigenous Maori name, Whakaari, sits about 30 miles offshore of mainland New Zealand, northeast of the town of Tauranga on North Island, one of New Zealand’s two main islands. Police were asking people to avoid areas on the North Island that were close to the eruption, including the Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive areas.

The island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year. 

A volcanologist with GNS Science said the eruption was significant and sent a plume of steam and ash about 12,000 feet into the air. He said it had affected the whole of the White Island crater floor.

The GeoNet agency at first raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption. It later dropped the alert level back down to three because the eruption wasn’t sustained beyond the initial blast. 

There will be questions asked as to why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity. GeoNet monitoring cameras captured images of tourists walking around the crater of the volcano moments before the eruption on Friday, but the organization later said it had removed the video clips from its website, at least while rescue efforts remained underway.

GeoNet raised the alert level on White Island from one to two on Nov. 18, noting an increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also said at the time that over the previous weeks, the volcanic tremor had increased from weak to moderate strength.

Cruise ship excursions can be one of the most fun and enjoyable aspects of partaking in a cruise experience. Most people that take cruises are looking for an adventurous way to explore different parts of the world, and exploring different attractions off the boat are the best opportunity for passengers to do so. However, as this tragedy shows, some aspects of cruise ship excursions can result in serious injuries and deaths to passengers.

Cruise ship excursion injuries can be quite serious. If you have been the victim of an injury, or have lost a loved one during a cruise ship excursion, our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate your case and hold cruise lines accountable for passenger injuries and deaths when applicable.

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A Jacksonville man convicted of aggravated sexual abuse on an 18-year-old woman while aboard a cruise ship was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

The 23-year-old was convicted in March after 90 minutes of deliberation. He did not testify.

During the cruise aboard the Carnival Elation, the man was in a hot tub with a number of people, including a young woman with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. He touched the woman over her bathing suit and groped her under the water.

The victim left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to her grandmother, who reported it to ship security.

When the man is released from prison, he will be a registered sex offender.

The sad truth is that sexual assault is the number one crime aboard cruise ships. They are also the most underreported to the public, so when cruisers book their vacation at sea, being sexually assaulted or raped rarely crosses their mind. This only makes innocent vacationers more vulnerable to perpetrators who commit these crimes on the high seas.

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A Jacksonville man was convicted Wednesday of aggravated sexual abuse by force on an 18-year-old woman aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation.

The 23-year-old was convicted after 90 minutes of deliberation.

According to the original criminal complaint, the man was in a hot tub with a number of people, including a young woman with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, when he touched the woman over her bathing suit before she pushed his hand away. The man then groped her under the water before getting out of the Jacuzzi.

The woman left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to her grandmother, who reported it to ship security.

The ship was at sea at the time, and the FBI was notified of the report. FBI agents and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were present when the ship returned to port in Jacksonville

The man will remain in custody of the U.S. Marshals until his sentencing October 22. He faces up to life in prison.

When you are on a cruise, you should not have to worry about being sexually assaulted by another passenger or a member of the crew. Sadly, rapes and other types of sexual abuse happen all too often on cruise ships.

The cruise line could be held liable for your suffering, including psychological and emotional injuries. They could also be liable if they handled the aftermath of the assault negligently. This can entail not providing adequate medical care to the victim, not restraining the assailant, etc.

In order to protect your rights after being sexually assaulted on a cruise ship, it is important that you seek legal advice from our Florida Cruise Ship Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible after the incident in which you were injured. We are experienced in dealing with cruise line negligence and can assist with your case right away. You want to act fast as there are statutes of limitations set forth on cruise ship injury claims, which could prevent you from seeking compensation past a certain date.

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A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging a 23-year-old Jacksonville man with aggravated sexual abuse by force. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in federal prison, and a potential lifetime of supervision.

According to the indictment and court records, the man is charged with sexually abusing a passenger on February 27, 2018, while aboard a Carnival cruise ship based out of Jacksonville.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

If you have been sexually assaulted or raped on a cruise ship, our Florida Cruise Negligence Lawyers at Whittel & Melton will fight for you to recover maximum damages, holding the cruise line responsible for not taking the adequate measures to protect you from harm.

We can pursue sexual assault and rape cases as a civil matter. The cruise ship has a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment to all passengers aboard the cruise liner. This includes having appropriate security and hiring crew members who are trustworthy and thoroughly reviewed for any previous criminal history.

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A passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship was in stable condition Wednesday after being rescued out of the water near the Bahamas, the cruise line said.

The passenger was reported overboard Tuesday night from the Norwegian Epic, which returned to its home port of Port Canaveral at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, an hour late.

The ship then slowed to a stop and maneuvered to allow the crew to search for the missing passenger.

As lifeboats searched for her, about eight to 10 passengers yelled out from their balconies to the woman to not give up and to keep calling out for help.

After she was rescued, she was taken to the ship’s medical facility, Norwegian Cruise Line said, and taken for additional medical attention on land once the ship arrived at Port Canaveral.

Falls from cruise ships can and do happen. They can occur many different ways including:

  • Inadequate or defective handrails
  • Intoxication from being over served alcohol in the ship’s bars and lounges
  • Failing to warn of rough seas
  • Violent actions of the ship’s crew members or other passengers

The cruise ship can be held liable for falls overboard that cause injury or distress to passengers. Our Florida Cruise Negligence Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are committed to helping victims obtain compensation from cruise lines who do not provide a safe environment for passengers. Most lawsuits relating to cruise ships departing from Florida must be filed in Florida, however, specific information about where you can file the lawsuit and the statute of limitations that applies can be found on the back of your cruise ship ticket. We can help you with your claim throughout the state of Florida.

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A Boynton Beach, Florida man has filed a wrongful death suit against a cruise line after his wife died in a hospital in France.

The man filed a complaint on May 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Princess Cruise Lines LTD alleging wrongful death and negligence.

According to the complaint, the man claims that on April 2016, his wife fell in her cabin on the ship and was seen by the ship’s doctor. The suit states the woman also had a fever and the ship’s doctor ordered the pair off of the ship for treatment at a hospital in France. The suit states the woman died five weeks later while still in France.

The man holds Princess Cruise Lines LTD responsible because the they allegedly negligently forced them to disembark the vessel and failed to hire qualified ship’s doctors and nurses.

The plaintiff requests a trial by jury and seeks compensatory damages of more than $75,000, all damages, interest, all legal fees and any other relief as the court deems just.

Sadly, people can fall ill or die while on vacation. Passengers can suffer terrible tragedies while onboard an ocean cruise. Typically, cruise lines specify a limited time and a particular place for you to file a civil lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. Regardless of where you took your cruise, certain cruise lines require you to file suit in a specific location. Our Florida Cruise Ship Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how to further research your cruise contract in order to determine when and where you can file a claim for damages.

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