Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

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South Korea Ferry AccidentTragedy stuck on Wednesday morning, when a passenger ferry transporting nearly 500 people capsized in frigid waters off the coast of the South Korean peninsula. Our maritime lawyers brought you the story yesterday, but have since learned of some new, disturbing evidence regarding both the rescue mission and the captain’s actions.

According to authorities, the death count is now up to 16 as of Thursday night, and no additional survivors have been located, despite the fact that over 500 divers have been scouring the area for two days. Unfortunately, unfavorable weather conditions have interfered with the ongoing search, reducing diver visibility and placing the lives of rescuers in danger.

As hope to find additional survivors continues to diminish, three large cranes have now been sent out to the accident site to raise the ferry, as several passengers are believed to have been trapped in the wreckage. Divers are also planning to pump oxygen into the sunken ship to aid any victims who may still be struggling for life inside the vessel.

As it stands, nearly 300 passengers remain unaccounted for – many of which are teenagers. The ferry had been en route to the resort island of Jeju on a class trip, when the ferry, a five-story ship named the Sewol, apparently crashed into a yet unidentifiable object and listed severely to one side. Passengers were told to remain calm and seated, but the environment onboard was anything BUT tranquil.

Footage obtained from rescued survivors shows hundreds of people with lifejackets on, trying to follow crew member orders, all the while the ship was  rapidly sinking. Many chose to jump ship, while others frantically searched the ship for any sign of help or good news from the crew.

Very little information has been revealed regarding the actual cause of the accident, but from the looks of it, the accident shares an eerie resemblance to the Costa Concordia capsizing accident. Both accidents appear to have resulted from negligence, and with new, appalling information regarding the Sewol’s captain, it seems our fears are coming to fruition.

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South Korea Ferry AccidentAnother day, another accident involving a cruise line. But this time, we can’t even peg the tragedy on negligence – or anything for that matter. There’s barely any information regarding what caused this latest tragedy, but what we do know is that hundreds of people have gone missing off the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, and we’ve yet to hear an explanation as to what could have possibly caused this terrible accident to unfold.

All eyes are glued to South Korean news outlets, as we continue to receive word on the mysterious sinking of a passenger ferry named the Sewol. In what is already being dubbed the nation’s worst maritime disaster in two decades, 290 people are currently missing after the Sewol sank Wednesday morning while en route to the resort island of Jeju.

The passenger vessel was carrying roughly 470 people, 325 of which were high school students. Divers scoured the cold, murky waters on Wednesday, fearing most of the victims became trapped inside the sunken vessel. Nearly 100 rescue vessels and 18 helicopters were dispatched to search for victims, but given the dire circumstances of the accident, the chance of finding many more victims is grim.

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Life saverCruise ship safety – or lack thereof – has been a recurring problem within the cruise industry as of late. Although safety concerns have always been a topic of debate since the very first cruise ship set sail over a century ago, the past five or so years have been wrought with more accidents and crimes than ever before. The Costa Concordia capsizing in 2012 appeared to be a turning point in the industry that caused maritime authorities to take action and more strictly regulate the industry. Unfortunately, there is not much the U.S. government can do to improve safety because the majority of cruise ships are registered in foreign ports and only abide by the laws of those governments.

The Concordia tragedy took the lives of 32 people and the U.S. government has been working diligently to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for cruise ship passengers. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller called a Senate Committee hearing last year to discuss the lack of transparency in cruise crime and accident reporting and to introduce the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. Since then, cruise lines have been cooperating, slowly, to improve safety features.

Many major cruise lines have voluntarily adopted tighter safety measures, but the ever-increasing accident rate shows that cruise operators haven’t done enough to improve safety.

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Life saver In the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) public forum on cruise ship safety, Chairman John “Jay” Rockefeller released a statement voicing his opinion and concerns regarding the topic. According to Mr. Rockefeller, even after the serious accidents cruise lines have faced in the past few years, including the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy and the Carnival Triumph fire, cruise lines have yet to “commit to fostering a long-term, industry-wide safety culture.”

Mr. Rockefeller, who held a senate committee hearing last year after releasing a cruise crime report, which exposed the cruise industry’s lack of transparency when reporting crimes on the high seas, has been advocating for greater passenger safety for several years. Though he recognizes that most cruise passengers are able to sail the seven seas without a hitch, the accidents and crimes that do occur are extreme in nature, leading to severe injuries or even the death of passengers.

Like the cruise ship accident attorneys at our firm, Mr. Rockefeller recognizes that problems onboard cruise ships have been occurring at a rapidly increasing frequency. And the problems go much further back than the Costa Concordia accident in 2012. Back in 2010, the Carnival Splendor experienced an explosion and fire in its engine room that disabled the ship. Similar to the Triumph fire, the Splendor incident resulted in an electrical systems failure and left thousands of passengers adrift without working air conditioning systems and sanitation problems.

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Cruise ship inspectionCruise ship safety is finally being taken more seriously. In the wake of the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy, the Carnival Triumph fire, and the dozens of other accidents that have befallen the cruise industry, the U.S. government has begun taking a stronger stance, pushing for greater safety industry-wide. For many years, cruise lines have underreported both accidents and crimes, leaving the government in the dark about serious incidents. Now, the Coast Guard has begun to randomly inspect cruise ships and the truth is finally coming to light.

Though the Coast Guard conducts routine inspections of cruise ships twice a year, the agency began inspecting ships unannounced beginning on March 5th, focusing attention on ships that have received complaints during routine inspections. According to Coast Guard Capt. Eric Christensen,  the agency inspected 140 foreign ships last year when they reached U.S. ports and found a whopping 351 violations of international safety standards.

The inspections take about four hours to complete.  Once a ship reaches a U.S. port, several Coast Guard agents will be on hand to inspect the vessel for problems. Usually, agents begin by reviewing the ship’s log to see if crew members recorded any incidents  or made any repairs. If a malfunction is noted and allegedly fixed, the agents will verify the work.

The most common issue, present in 44 of the cases, was malfunctioning fire-screen doors, which would prevent the spread of a fire onboard a vessel. Other problems discovered in the inspections included lifeboats with cracked hulls, escape routes that were obstructed, and a lack of crew member training regarding emergency situations and proper emergency protocols.

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Life saver Our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have continually reported on the alarming increase of cruise ship accidents over the past few years. In the first three months of this year alone, we’ve seen at least six overboard accidents and disappearances, several incidents of sexual assault, including the brutal rape and attempted murder of a Holland America passenger by a crew member, and countless other instances in which both passengers and crew members have been injured, ill, or become the targets of a crime.

Despite these terrifying accidents and crimes, and the several bills that have been introduced to improve safety on cruise ships, including the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013, we’ve seen little or no sign of significant improvement in either onboard or offshore safety policies. So, what is it going to take to get the cruise industry’s attention and prompt cruise lines to enhance their accident and crime prevention policies and safety features?

Could a call to safety by someone who has actually worked within the cruise industry be the catalyst for change? We’ll soon find out.

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Cruise ship accidents on the riseToday, many people envision their ideal vacation as embarking on an exciting adventure to a faraway land or tropical destination aboard a cruise ship.  Cruise vacations can be a lot of fun for travelers of all ages.  These days, not only can you sail the seven seas to distant ports, but the vessels themselves are designed to be as exciting – if not more so – than the ports of call on their itinerary.

It’s no wonder then that cruise travel has increased dramatically since 1980.  Statistics show that the cruise industry experiences an average passenger growth of 7.6 percent per year.  Since 2011, over 16 million guests have taken cruise vacations all over the world. However, while cruising can be a terrific experience overall, for those few who suffer an accident or become victims of a crime on board or on land, the experience can very quickly turn into a very long nightmare.

Our maritime accident attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can attest to the growing number of passenger injuries, crimes and disappearances within the industry. Though cruise ship accidents have occurred since the industry began, the increased number of passengers each ship holds today has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of incidents in the last five years. This is despite the fact that maritime safety technology keeps improving.

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questionIn Part 1 of our blog, we discussed the mystery surrounding the death of 29-year-old cruise passenger, John Perricone. Mr. Perricone died suddenly and unexpectedly while on a cruise vacation with his family. Though autopsy results are pending, there are specific protocols the cruise line should have taken following the death. These protocols must be followed in the event of any passenger death in order to protect the rights of the deceased and their loved ones.

Some times, cruise line negligence is responsible for the death or for complications following the death. This is why there are specific protocols in place that all cruise lines must fully abide by.

The first step that must be taken following a fatality onboard a cruise ship is for the cruise line to contact the deceased’s next of kin. Luckily for the Perricones, the majority of the family was onboard when he passed, so the cruise line did not have to worry about this step. However, federal authorities should have been contacted, including the FBI and Coast Guard.  Despite foul play not being suspected, the cruise line should have also launched an investigation into the death and determine whether anyone else onboard was suffering from similar symptoms.

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questionNo one ever suspects that what should be a fun-filled cruise vacation could possibly ever go awry. Despite the increasing number of cruise ship accidents, crimes, and mysteries at sea that not even our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can begin to unravel, travelers tend to see their cruise through rose colored glasses. Sure, they may know that there’s a chance they may get hurt onboard or at a foreign port or become the victim of assault or theft, but they remain undaunted by the statistics. But there are times when all the data in the world cannot prepare a family for the unexpected. A death onboard a cruise ship is not only frightening, but wrought with complications. Innumerable things can go wrong, from the autopsy to the transfer of the body.

Sometimes, it’s the cruise line that’s to blame for the death or for any complications in the process that must follow a death at sea. Yet, there are times when the circumstances surrounding the tragedy are out of the control of both the cruise line and the family. Some cruise ship fatalities can neither be prevented nor explained. This is the unfortunate situation one Chicago family is struggling with at the moment following a mysterious death onboard a Carnival Cruise ship.

John Perricone, a mere 29 years old, was on a Carnival Cruise vacation last month with his family to Mexico when he fell ill. After a few days, Mr. Perricone was not showing signs of improvement, and began to experience difficulty breathing. It was then that his wife, Brittany, immediately took him to the ship’s onboard physician for treatment. That’s when things suddenly took a tragic turn.

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Rogue waveTuesday, our cruise ship accident lawyers recounted the hellish story of an elderly cruise passenger who was killed after a rogue wave crashed into the vessel he was sailing on. The victim, an 85-year-old man who was identified as James Swinstead, was one of two cruise passengers who were severely injured after a massive wave crashed into the side of the MS Marco Polo ship on February 14, shattering several windows in the dining area and harming a number of passengers. Swinstead and the other passenger were evacuated to the nearest shore side hospital, but sadly, Swinstead did not make it. The other injured passengers were treated onboard.

Our firm has talked extensively about the cruise industry’s failure to properly abide by maritime laws regarding safety, and while recounting this tragic accident yesterday, one of our attorneys, Michael Winkleman, discussed how cruise lines often attribute “rogue wave” accidents to chance so as to avoid taking responsibility for any accidents that ensue due to their own failure to protect the safety of their guests.

By definition, a rogue wave is basically a giant wave that appears to come out of nowhere.  It is much larger than surrounding waves and has enough power to impale a cruise ship. But while these natural phenomena do appear to pop up spontaneously, they tend to appear in areas known for dangerous waters and during massive storms.

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