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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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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Quantum of the SeasRoyal Caribbean recently fired a Quantum of the Seas crew member who was held in custody in New Jersey following accusations that he sexually assaulted a passenger in her cabin. The passenger was allegedly asleep when the assault took place.

The 25 year old crew member who was from Mauritius, allegedly threatened the woman against reporting the incident when she woke up. The crew member had access to the woman’s room because it was his duty to restock the cabin mini-bars. The crew member had been given a key that allowed him to have access to the woman’s room.

Given the fact that crew members are often given unrestricted access to passenger’s private rooms, one wonders what measures are in place in terms of security background checks during the hiring process. Though thorough background checks should be done, not every cruise line does so. And even when a background check is thorough, they don’t always check for criminal history in other countries, despite the fact that the majority of cruise ship crew members are foreign-born.

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Airboat accidentOviedo authorities have identified the bodies of a missing boater and passenger who died in an airboat accident in Lake Jesup that took place on Sunday, December 28 when the airboat struck State Road 417 Bridge in Central Florida. It is unclear why the accident took place, but the incident highlights the fact that airboats pose risks and can be dangerous if not maneuvered safely.

Airboats are different from conventional boats in that the engine is located above water and is often enclosed in a safety mesh. The location of the engine above the water protects animals that may be located beneath the surface and allows the boat to operate in swampy conditions that would not be navigable by conventional boats. Despite these adaptations, airboats, like traditional boats, are subject to the same accident hazards that conventional boaters face. If not carefully maneuvered, these boats can strike bridges, pylons, or other structures.

Airboats have some navigation limitations. They cannot be maneuvered in reverse and they can only be steered when the engine is running and providing forward thrust. The boats are meant to be best suited for shallow water though they can function in deeper water. Given these additional considerations, operators should be aware of the risks, limitations, and hazards of these boats before they attempt to navigate narrow channels or hazardous areas with high traffic.

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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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Life jacketsWith the long holiday weekend approaching, and many boaters thinking about taking to the water, this might be a good opportunity to make sure that you and your passengers are following best safety practices. One small safety measure that boaters can take to keep themselves and their passengers safe is to wear life jackets while on board.

While wearing a life jacket can save your life and your passenger’s lives, many boaters aren’t aware that life jacket storage can have a huge effect on the longevity and effectiveness of a life jacket.

According to Boating magazine, in October, the U.S. Coast Guard eliminated numerical designations on personal flotation devices. This means that boaters don’t need to do extensive research about which type of flotation device is required for their vessel. Every state still has its own designations regarding life jacket requirements for children.

The U.S. Coast Guard explains that certain life jackets are designed to keep an individual’s head above water. Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard requires all recreational boats to carry one wearable life jacket for each person on board. Boats that are 16 feet or longer, must carry one PFD or throwable life jacket.

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Happy Holidays from our maritime lawyers at LMAWThe holiday season is in full swing, and our maritime lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. want to make sure you and your loved ones are enjoying a wonderful – and safe – holidays, especially if you decide to go on a cruise vacation or boat outing. Though we’ve been lucky that there has been a push for greater transparency in cruise accident and crime reporting, which has increased the public’s awareness of what really goes on aboard a ship as well as placed greater focus on the industry itself and (hopefully) has led cruise lines to make sure they are abiding by proper safety standards, the fact still remains that tragedies can – and do – continue to occur on the high seas.

If you are planning to head to sea during the holidays, it’s important to understand the dangers that can present themselves while on a cruise or on a pleasure craft. While there are times when freak accidents can occur, many maritime accidents and crimes are the result of operator negligence, and there are things passengers can do to reduce their risk of becoming a victim. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can help ensure you and your loved ones stay as safe as possible while out at sea.

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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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