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 Maritime Matter of the Week

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Elderly Woman Lives Aboard Crystal SerenityCruise vacations can bring wonderful memories when cruise lines take proper safety precautions and when nothing goes wrong—but one woman took her love of cruise vacations to the next level.

Lee Wachtstetter is an 86-year-old widow who has been living on a cruise ship for the last seven years. Her rent comes out to about $164,000 per year, after tips, drinks, and the cost of each cruise – a pretty hefty price, but she doesn’t seem to mind. After her husband passed away, Wachtstetter sold her estate in Fort Lauderdale and decided to become a permanent resident on a cruise ship, at the suggestion of her daughter.

It was actually Wachtstetter’s husband who introduced her to cruising. During their fifty years of marriage, they took 89 cruises together. The day before her husband passed away from cancer in 1997, he asked her to not stop cruising and Wachtstetter honored his request. Since his passing, Wachtstetter has taken over a hundred cruises and says that she stopped counting countries she’s visited once the tally reached 100.

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Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean, overboard passenger, cruise ship safety, maritime attorneysIn our last blog, we discussed the strange cruise ship overboard accident that has made headlines across the nation. A Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas passenger mysteriously fell overboard last week and was rescued by the Disney Magic. But there are several questions left unanswered.

Witnesses aboard the ship explain that several passengers heard victim while he was in the water crying out for help. After passengers spotted him, the crew of the Disney Magic began a rescue mission. Passengers were able to throw life vessels out to the victim, identified as 22-year-old Frank Jade, and he was subsequently taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries.

What’s strange about the incident is that the victim has no recollection about how he fell into the sea. Fortunately – and quite shockingly – he suffered no major injuries as a result of the accident, but our maritime attorneys are left wondering about the real details surrounding the incident and how this passenger could have even survived in the water for so long. If he has no memory of falling, it could mean he lost consciousness. But if the victim was unconscious, how did he stay afloat? Something just doesn’t seem right.

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Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean, man overboard, rescue, maritime attorneysWhen a 22-year old man fell overboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship near Cozumel, Mexico last week, the crew on Disney Magic were put on alert. Finding a passenger who has fallen into the vast ocean is extremely difficult, even for trained Coast Guard personnel, as we discovered in the case of Robert Konrad who fell off his boat and wasn’t spotted by Coast Guard, even after they shined their lights right on him. In a man overboard situation, all people available to scan the water should be asked to help to spot a fallen passenger. It can be very challenging to spot a person in the water, especially if he or she isn’t wearing a life jacket.

Miraculously, the Disney Magic was able to find and rescue the victim. However, the accident raises several concerns, not only calling into question the safety tactics and protocols of both Disney and Royal, but those of the cruise industry as a whole.

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Holland America, cruise rape, sentencedIt’s been nearly a year since a Holland America passenger was raped and nearly killed by a cruise ship crew member aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam ship on Valentine’s Day, 2014. We can’t even begin to imagine the unspeakable amount of suffering the victim underwent – or the suffering any other cruise ship rape victim undergoes – but now, finally, at least some semblance of justice has been attained.

According to news reports, a verdict has been reached in the case. The former HAL crew member was sentenced to 30 years and five months in prison in a Broward County Federal Court.

Back in September, Ketut Pujayasa, the Indonesian crew member in question, confessed to brutally raping, beating, and attempting to throw the passenger overboard from the balcony in her stateroom to FBI officials. Pujayasa told officials he believed the victim insulted him, and plotted revenge against her. He then obtained a master key and entered her room while she was away, waited for her in the balcony, and once the victim came back to the stateroom, he sexually assaulted her and tried to throw her overboard as a form of “punishment”.

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4-year-old boy nearly drowns in Oasis of the Seas cruise ship wave poolIn our last blog, our maritime attorneys discussed the concerns that have been raised over cruise ship safety protocols and the lack of trained lifeguards on the majority of ships following the near-drowning of a 4-year-old boy on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The accident occurred in the ship’s wave pool, where there were no lifeguards stationed to monitor guests. The boy was submerged for roughly six minutes, and pulled from the water by a fellow passenger. He is currently in critical condition.

But while this accident is tragic, it is not the first near-drowning or drowning accident to befall the cruise industry. Several other young children have suffered similar accidents, but cruise lines have yet to employ lifeguards. Wave pools themselves are extremely dangerous and difficult to monitor, even when a lifeguard is present. The crowds, the fact that people will drift under the water as the waves pass, and the motion of the water itself can create difficulty in surveillance – even for a trained professional. The fact that cruise lines have these kinds of pools on board without any lifeguard at all is a disaster waiting to happen, as the accident involving the four-year old this weekend proves.

Cruise lines claim that patrons are warned to swim at their own risk and parents are asked to watch their children. But in wave pools, where even a professionally trained lifeguard on duty would have trouble keeping everyone safe, how can parents be expected to watch all their children in a roiling mess of water and crowds without professional assistance? Moreover, the fact that drowning accidents can happen even to adults further highlights the dire need for all cruise ships to employ trained lifeguards. The 2013 drowning of 1985 MOVE Bombing survivor, Michael Ward (nicknamed Birdie Africa), in a Disney cruise ship hot tub is a prime example.

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Royal Caribbean Flowrider - Surf Simulator Wave Pool

Royal Caribbean Flowrider – Surf Simulator Wave Pool

In our last post, our maritime lawyers discussed a four-year-old boy’s near fatal drowning on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. As details emerge about the accident, concerns have begun to arise regarding the overall safety of cruise ships (or lack thereof), and the cruise industry’s failure to employ life guards to be stationed near onboard pool and Jacuzzi facilities. In particular, the incident raises questions about the safety of wave pools, where the tragic near-drowning accident took place.

The Sun Sentinel reports that the boy had been swept under a wave and was submerged for about six minutes before another guest noticed what had transpired. Six minutes is an extremely lengthy amount of time to be submerged, and can lead to severe consequences – if not death. Without oxygen, the brain begins to die. The brain is the human body’s largest consumer of oxygen, requiring 20% of the body’s overall oxygen intake. After 4 to 6 minutes of being deprived of oxygen, the brain’s cells start to fail.

The boy had no pulse when he was pulled from the water. Though CPR was performed and the boy was revived, he may have already suffered permanent brain damage or a number of other complications, including lung and esophageal damage. The boy is currently in critical condition at Broward Health Medical Center.

Though wave pools may be a lot of fun, in reality, they can be extremely dangerous, especially for young children. Continue reading →

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4-year-old boy nearly drowns in Oasis of the Seas cruise ship wave poolIt was just a few days ago that our maritime lawyers discussed the risks of drowning and secondary drowning while engaging in any water-related activity, especially while on a cruise vacation. Aside from a few exceptions, like Disney Cruise Lines, the majority of cruise lines do not employ trained lifeguards, which means ship pools are not monitored by trained professionals. In fact, pools are seldom actually monitored by any cruise ship crew member. This means that on any given day, on any given ship, the dozens of people enjoying pool and Jacuzzi facilities may suffer a near-drowning or drowning accident and may not be rescued in time.

Unfortunately, this is a reality every cruise passenger can face. But while drowning accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of age, most victims are young children. In April of 2013, a four-year-old boy nearly drowned on board the Disney Fantasy. In February 2014, another four-year-old boy drowned and his six-year-old brother nearly drowned while on board the Norwegian Breakaway. And now, sadly, a third four-year-old boy was involved in a near-drowning accidents this weekend aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, leading us to wonder why in the world are cruise lines continuing to ignore the dire need to hire experienced lifeguards.

According to the latest news reports, the boy is in critical condition at the moment, receiving treatment at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. The near-drowning accident happened roughly about an hour after the vessel set sail on a 7-day Western Caribbean itinerary on Saturday. The young victim was “swept under” a wave and submerged under water for anywhere between five to ten minutes while in the ship’s wave pool.

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Canine maritime survival storiesOver the past several weeks, our maritime lawyers have blogged about countless stories of tragedy at sea. Boating accidents, near drownings, and other tragedies occur frequently. Sadly, as we’ve discovered, many of these accidents could have been easily prevented with proper precaution or safety measures.

Today, we’ll take a little break from these tragedies to recount two heartwarming stories of canine maritime survival.

The first story is about a resourceful canine named Sophie Tucker, who fell overboard from a yacht near Queensland in 2008 and survived despite all odds. Sophie Tucker swam through shark-infested waters, eventually finding her way to remote, St. Bees Island. Reports claim that she swam five miles over a barrier reef notorious for dangerous marine life. Numerous boaters claim that dogs don’t often survive long when they swim in the ocean where Sophie Tucker fell overboard, and captains won’t even let their animals swim in the area.

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stay safe on your cruiseImagine this: you’re out for your morning walk on the beach. It’s the day after Christmas and the sun is shining. You look out into the water and realize that something isn’t right. Something that is in the water shouldn’t be there. You take a closer look. Your curiosity becomes horror as you realize what it is you are looking at.

For the innocent bystander who found the body of a Holland America crew member, this scenario was reality. The body of Cliford B. Minej washed up on a Florida beach just five days after his cruise ship returned home without him. His body washed up at around 7:15 a.m. on Clearwater Beach. He was reportedly found wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Unfortunately, man overboard situations on cruise ships are more common than the public would like to think. Since 2000, over 200 people have died as a result of falling overboard.

Investigators are still trying to determine what went wrong. It is unclear whether the man jumped to his death or fell off the ship by accident. The Pinellas County Medical Examiner has thus far ruled the man’s death an accident.

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Future of Cruise Industry in CubaOn Wednesday, December 17th, President Obama announced that the U.S. would resume full diplomacy with Cuba. While many cruise lines, airlines, and hotel chains have shown some excitement at the prospect of being able to help tourists travel to the island nation located only 90 miles south of the U.S., it may be years before U.S. travelers are allowed to visit Cuba.

The opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba means that the U.S. will establish an embassy in Havana. President Obama spoke personally with Raul Castro in order to finalize the decision. Obama explained that the historic change will finally put an end to Cold War era hostilities and help the U.S. write a “new chapter” in its history.

The New York Times reported that the change in U.S. policy came about after 18 months of secret talks that allowed for a prisoner exchange negotiation that involved Pope Francis’s intercession. Fidel Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union and the Cuban Missile Crisis both set the stage for the U.S. embargo on Cuba and for the tensions that have been in place for the last 54 years.

But what impact can resuming diplomacy with Cuba have on the U.S. and the maritime industry as a whole? Will this affect consumer cruise ship travel?

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