A cruise ship in the Mediterranean carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew struck an underwater rock, ran aground and capsized over the weekend, leaving six people dead, more than a dozen missing, and the ship half sunken into the Sea.
The dramatic cruise ship crash also left thousands stranded, after passengers reportedly leapt off the ship and swam for shore, recalling scenes from the Titanic cruise ship disaster now immortalized on film.
Passengers reported blackouts, crawling through dark hallways, plates and dishes crashing, desperate attempts to reach lifeboats, and general chaos. Some were evacuated by helicopter, others rescued by ferry, and many took shelter on a nearby island in schools, hotels and a church, overrunning the tiny island of 1,500 residents.
A couple from Homestead, Florida and a couple from Aventura, Florida were on board, and survived.
The resort torts seem to be stacking up, with reports of delays in lowering lifeboats and lack of evacuation instructions, according to MSNBC. Liability is also looming from a reported lack of evacuation drills before the ship sailed, no head counts once in the life boats, and an “‘unapproved, unauthorized’ deviation in course” by the captain, according to BBC News.
The chairman and chief executive of Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival Corporation, pointed blame at human error by the ship’s captain, who veered off course and sailed too close to the island. The captain denied wrongdoing according to the BBC report, saying the rock that the ship struck was not marked on his nautical chart. He also denied claims that he abandoned ship before the evacuation was complete.
CNN reported today that the captain “faces possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship while passengers were still on board.”
Cruise ships are not merely large boats, they are virtual floating cities. These maritime hotels, however, can lack fundamental safety policies, protocols, and procedures to protect passengers from harm. They generally fly foreign flags, so they do not have to comply with United States laws. Additionally, antiquated laws and contractual language limiting passenger rights and remedies can put travelers in a precarious position and require aggressive litigation.