Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

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 »

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cruise ship rape, cruise ship rape lawyerThe recent sentencing of a Holland America crew member who raped and attempted to murder a female passenger aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam on Valentine’s Day, 2014, has raised several concerns over the safety of cruise ships, the efficacy of cruise line background screenings, and whether or not a victim of cruise ship rape can ever truly obtain justice, even when the assailant is caught and sentenced, as this particular crew member was.

The crew member, an Indonesian man named Ketut Pujayasa, was sentenced to over 30 years in prison in a Broward County Federal Court. Pujayasa admitted to his crimes, explaining he committed the heinous crimes after believing the victim had insulted him. Pujayasa obtained a master key to open the victim’s stateroom, where he waited for hours in her balcony until she returned. It was then that he proceeded to violently assault and sexually abuse her, before attempting to throw her overboard from the balcony. Miraculously, the victim escaped. She was present in court when the sentence was passed, but while it appears that a fair sentence was handed down, there is nothing that can erase the unspeakable pain she has suffered.

The damage incurred from the sexual assault and attempted murder can never be completely undone, and the victim continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress. Yet, despite the fact that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships, the cruise industry continues to downplay the issue and has yet to incorporate an effective way to both handle and prevent these horrific crimes from happening.

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boating accidentsRob Konrad’s recent – and miraculous – story of survival, where he explains he swam 9 miles to shore after falling from his vessel while fishing, offers a terrifying reminder of the inherent risks of an accident at sea. Konrad explained that he had several opportunities to be rescued while he was swimming toward shore. On one occasion, he noticed a vessel about 50 yards away. Despite his attempts to flag the vessel for help, the boat passed him by. On another occasion, the Coast Guard, despite using lights and other spotting equipment, failed to see him in the water. Konrad explains that when the Coast Guard left him, he knew for sure that he was on his own.

Though Konrad survived, his experience is not one that is typical for boating accident victims, and highlights the dangers solo boaters face when they go out to sea alone, especially of falling overboard. Fortunately, there are several measures boaters sailing alone can take to protect themselves when they head out for a day of fishing or exploring. Here are a few safety tips that the boating accident lawyers at our firm have outlined, which can help increase a victim’s chances of survival:

 

1) Wear a life jacket

This one goes without saying. Life Jackets are often the only line of defense that a boating accident victim has to survive. They are extremely critical because they will keep a victim afloat, even if the victim is injured or unconscious – which is especially important for solo boaters. Continue reading

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Rob Konrad, boating accidentWe recently wrote about Miami Dolphins Fullback, Rob Konrad’s harrowing nine mile swim to safety following a boating accident in South Florida waters. However, the exact circumstances surrounding the cause of the actual accident remained unclear, until now. In the past several days, Konrad has opened up about his perilous journey to shore. He addressed a press conference on Monday to speak about his traumatic adventure.

Konrad explained that “an unusually large wave” struck his vessel last Wednesday evening. He wasn’t sure whether the wave was due to the natural tide or due to a passing boat’s wake, but explained that the wave hit his boat while a fish was pulling on his line. Konrad went on to say that the combination of forces, the wave and the fish’s pull on his line, caused him to be ejected from the boat. The former NFL player also noted that he realized he was in trouble when he hit the water. After briefly panicking—as anyone would—he made the difficult decision to swim toward shore.

Word of Konrad’s impressive feat has awed audiences far and wide, including Diana Nyad, the famed long-distance swimmer. Continue reading

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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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What to do in man overboard situationsWe recently written about former Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad who swam nine miles to shore after he fell off his boat. Boating accidents of this type are actually more common than we’d like to think and they can be particularly dangerous if boaters become separated from their boats while solo-boating.

Falling overboard on a sailboat is actually particularly dangerous. With all the moving sails, it is possible for a passenger or sailor to get knocked overboard by a boom. Man overboard scenarios are actually among the most reported boating emergencies. People fall overboard for many reasons. Bad weather or strong waves can knock a person into the water. Slippery decks can also create a situation where a boater falls from their vessel, as can leaning over the edge of a vessel or getting hit by a part of the boat.

In the event of an overboard accident, there are several things people can do to assist the victim. First, immediately stop the vessel’s engine or drop the sails to remain in the area where the victim fell overboard. Do not back the vessel up, because this can lead the victim to sustain an injury from contact with the boat’s propellers. Propeller accidents are very common and can lead to life-threatening – if not fatal – injuries.

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Former Miami Dolphins Fullback Swims 9 Miles to Shore Following Boating AccidentWe’ve heard stories that reach national news about individuals falling off of cruise ships. At the end of December, our maritime lawyers wrote about a Holland America crew member whose body was found on a Florida beach after he fell overboard.

Yet, while there have been over 200 cruise ship overboard accidents in the past 15 years alone, there is another, equally – if not more dangerous – risk of falling overboard from a personal water craft. Sailors train to avoid man overboard situations, as these situations can be deadly, especially in solo-sailing scenarios. Recovering victims from the water in cases where there are other people on board can also be a challenge if there are rough seas. Sailors are at greater risk of falling overboard because sailboats experience more pitch and yaw than other watercraft, though the risk of falling overboard on any personal watercraft, such as a jet ski, is always present.

Solo watercraft users are more likely to suffer fatal injuries if they fall overboard. Rough water can make it impossible for individuals to swim back to their vessel. If waters are frigid, hypothermia can quickly set in. And, if a victim isn’t wearing a life jacket, especially if they suffer a debilitating injury, there is a huge risk of drowning. While rescue personnel can fairly easily spot a boat on the ocean, it can be much more difficult to spot a person in the water, especially if the victim isn’t wearing a life jacket with rescue features. Currents can sweep a person far from their boat in unpredictable directions.

However, there are rare times when a boating accident victim survives, even under seemingly impossible circumstances. On Wednesday, January 7th, the real risk of what can happen when a person falls overboard from a personal watercraft became evident. The harrowing story is both inspiring and sobering.

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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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