In 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.