2015 Cruise Incidents in Review
After ten years of following cruise ship events at sea with Cruise Bruise Investigations, we thought we had heard and seen everything. 2015 will go down in history as having some of the most shocking, most outrageous cruise events at sea in the past ten years. It was a year cruise ship passengers and crew threw caution and good sense to the wind and in some cases created horror on the seas for those around them.
In 2015 we have chosen investigations on 468 cruise industry lawsuits to follow. The lawsuits against Carnival Cruise Lines, 171, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, 104, Norwegian Cruise Lines, 87, Holland America Line, 84, Princess Cruises, 12 and Disney Cruise Line, 10 combine to form the largest collection of 2015 cruise industry lawsuit investigations launched by any specialized maritime law firm, cruise industry news website or cruise industry blogger. Some of the more interesting cases we have completed the investigation on, have been featured on Cruise Bruise, Cruise Ship Deaths or Cruise Laws. Many others are still under investigation. The position on the list is the result of visitor's interest during the year as well as the our determination as to whether the case is typical or atypical.
Top 40 Events At Sea (Where the name is known)
1. Bernardo Garcia Elbaz Filmed His Own Death Oasis of the Seas - November 6, 2015
His lawyer called it a protest, the story sounds more like a filmmaker publicity stunt gone wrong. With two cell phones filming the event from inside their cabin the stage for this even was set. A gay man sailing with his husband contends they were harassed by crew aboard the cruise ship for being gay and as a protest, the filmmaker jumped overboard. It's not disputed he jumped over their balcony railing, but we think in his drunken state, he miscalculated the jump to land on a lifeboat, slipped on the wet boat and ending up hanging from it. His partner screamed for everyone to hear, "you murdered him, you murdered him", at security officers who had arrived at their cabin. At that point, Elbaz was still clinging to the lifeboat with crew trying desperately to pull him back aboard the cruise ship.
2. Crew Member Killed Repairing Elevator
December 27, 2015, Crew member, Jose Sandoval Opazo, 66, an electrician working aboard Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Ecstasy was killed while repairing an elevator. A cruise passenger couple passing the the elevator observed a stream of blood raining down the outside to the elevator door and filmed the elevator with blood streaming down the door and pooling on the carpeting.
3. Darla Banner Cruise Ship Murder Suicide
Darla J Mellinger Banner cruise ship murder suicide aboard Holland America Line Ryndam on April 2, 2015 was as shocking as it could get this year. The newlywed murder of Darla Mellinger Banner by her husband, will go down in cruise ship history as the worst, verified cruise ship spousal murder of a newlywed in cruise industry history. After a failed attempt at murdering Darla by stabbing her in the chest two months after they were married, John Banner left Darla in a bloodied cruise ship cabin after killing her. He then killed himself exactly six months after their wedding day.
4. Baby Doe Verdict
After waiting for four years for a verdict in the murder of Baby Doe, an Indiana judge sentenced Alicia Keir to one day in prison for giving birth to a full term baby aboard aboard Carnival Dream. Keir who was unmarried, gave birth to a live, breathing baby, stuffed it under her cabin bed and continue to party on the ship as if nothing had happened. Her cabin mates had no idea a dead baby was in the cabin with them, until a cabin attendant servicing the stateroom found the dead baby. There was no public outrage even after it was learned Keir had gotten pregnant again, using the second child as a reason she should avoid prison time for the murder of child's older sibling.
5. $21.5 Million Verdict
The jury award to James Hausman of $21.5 million for walking into a door aboard Holland America Line Amsterdam, hit the outer limits of outrageous lawsuits. Just like #3, Hausman continue to party after an event at sea, only this case was for a "traumatic brain injury". This case will go down in history as the longest time a cruise ship passenger partied on a cruise ship after an injury where he sued the cruise line. Hausman was on a 270 day cruise which embarked on September 26, 2011 and he ran into the door 60 days later on November 26, 2011. For the next 210 days, Hausman continued to party, which was documented by the cruise line crew both aboard the cruise ship and in ports around the world. With a mountain of evidence challenging the severity of Hausman's alleged head injury, the jury awarded an outrageous $21.5 million. An appeal is pending.
6. Peter Mizioch Murders Remain Unsolved
Even though Peter Mizioch left behind four unsolved murders, a federal judge allowed him to take a "family" cruise aboard Disney Fantasy, while he awaited sentencing on a federal tax crime conviction. The "daughter" as it turned out, was no relation to Mizioch, but tried to claim his body in port and rush cremation. His death brought speculation by Arizona police investigating the unsolved murders that Mizioch actually didn't die, faked his death and was living the high life some where outside the U.S. Police are still investigating the unsolved murders of his estranged wife and three of his previous business partners.
7. Micro-Preemie Born Aboard Cruise Ship
This case garnered the attention of people around the world. Haiden Morgan, the cruise ship "micro-preemie" baby born at sea, will go down in history as the most pre-mature live birth by a cruise ship passenger at sea. Baby boy Haiden Morgan arrived 109 days early aboard Independence of the Seas on September 1, 2015. His mother and father launched a Gofundme account to cover their expenses while in Miami. The couple repeatedly increased their target donation amount which started at $10,000. At press time, the amount had been raised to $100,000, even though the family had already arrived back home in Utah.
8. Manhunt For Passenger - Murders Couple Then Arrested On Cruise
Scott Michael Tomaszewski, from Rockville, Maryland was a Mother's Day murder fugitive arrested aboard Coral Princess on May 15, 2015. Tomaszewski demonstrates an odd take on the term "bucket list cruise" during this final days of freedom before a murder trial begins. Tomaszewski broke into a neighbor's home to rob the home, found the couple inside and murdered them with a knife, leaving a bloody scene behind. He then boarded a plane out of the country landing in Vancouver, Canada to take an Alaskan cruise with his parents. When Tomaszewski was arrested, blood-soaked cash was found in his wallet, completing a slam dunk for Maryland police investigators.
9. Flora Stuardo He Murdered Me
The "attempted murder" of Flora Stuardo aboard Costa Fortuna on July 19, 2015 took twists and turns like no other. Stuardo initially was said to have jumped overboard during an argument with her boyfriend. Stuardo went overboard in Flam, Norway on a nine-day Northern Europe cruise. She was rescued by cruise ship crew and while in the hospital she awoke from a coma and immediately proclaimed she didn't jump, he "murdered me". Months later while still in the hospital recovering from serious injuries, she reversed that statement and claimed the boyfriend, who was under investigation for attempted murder, loves her, sees her every day in the hospital and would never try to kill her. She has a history of filing domestic violence police reports against the boyfriend, which she retracts.
10. Cameron Smook Radar Knocks Him Overboard
Cameron Smook from Virginia, a Virginia Tech senior majoring in mining and mineral engineering showed his engineering expertise when he entered a restricted area of the cruise ship with other fellow students, and stood up on the mast platform as the ship sailed into the harbor. When the radar came on, it knocked Smook off the platform into the sea. His death demonstrates the disregard for personal safety and respect for cruise industry laws and policy we see in young adult cruise events at sea every year
11. Tunis Bardo Museum Massacre
March 18, 2015 passengers from two cruise ships, MSC Splendida and Costa Fascinosa were in port at Tunis, Tunisia on a cruise ship excursion to the Bardo National Museum, when a group of terrorists opened fire on the group who were exiting their tour buses, killing or wounding more than 50 cruise ship passengers. The historic case represents the largest amount of cruise ship passengers injured in a port on the same day and the first terrorism attack on a group of cruise ship passenger in port. It sealed the fate of the cruise ship port as a destination for cruise ship calls.
12. Eastern Star Sinking Over 400 Die
Eastern Star Cruise Ship Sinking in China in Yangtze River with 456 aboard. When storm caused severe listing and the cruise ship rolled over hundreds were trapped inside. With all passengers and crew remaining inside thought to be dead. Friday June 5, with only 103 bodies found. the Chinese government ordered the raising of the ship and turning her into an upright position in order to do body recovery. Final death toll was 442.
13. SEWOL Sinking Over 300 Die
On April 15, 2014 Chonghaejin Marine Company's five-story-tall ferry SEWOL was sailing from Incheon on the northwest coast of South Korea to the island of Jeju off the southwestern tip of South Korea when reports say the ship grounded or hit something, shuttered, stopped suddenly, then begin to severely list before it sank. Rescued passengers reported that many of the friends were in their cabins when the accident took place, accounting for the death toll of 302 people.
14. Westerdam 8 Plane Crash
June 25, 2015 Eight cruise ship passengers were all found dead after a Holland America Line Westerdam excursion plane, a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter small float plane crashed about 20 miles from Ketchikan, Alaska. All the plane's cruise ship passengers and the pilot were killed
15. Saint Laurent Collision 30 Injured
Ann Arbor, Michigan Great Lakes Cruise Company's MS Saint Laurent was involved in a collision with the Eisenhower Lock wall while transiting the St. Lawrence River lock about 9:45pm on June 18, 2015, with 274 people aboard. The Saint Laurent, which was sailing to Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the time of the collision, started taking on water immediately after the collision, prompting the closing of the lock doors and draining of the lock in order to prevent sinking. The injured, 27 passengers and three crew were transported to Massena Memorial Hospital in upstate New York. Most of the injures were said to be minor, while two had more extensive injuries. The cruise line filed for bankruptcy protection soon after.
16. Overboard Naked Man Arrested During Home Invasion
A Coastal Celebration male passenger who was sailing through Active Pass from Tsawwassen Vancouver to Swartz Bay Victoria British Columbia, Canada jumped off deck six. The man reportedly yelled 'Yahoo!' and did an "impressive aerial maneuver" front-flip on the way to the sea. While ships were searching the sea for him, he had already come ashore naked, broke into a home, terrifying the female resident who called the RCMP. The naked man was arrested, oddly going down in history as the first naked cruise ship passenger to be arrested for a crime in port.
17. Grand Princess Fire, Cruise Canceled
November 30, 2015 Princess Cruises Grand Princess experienced a switchboard malfunction which sparked a small fire around 0530 hours. The cruise ship was sailing toward Hawaii, about 100 miles northeast of Hilo when the fire broke out in its engine room. Grand Princess had approximately 2,600 passengers and 1,000 crew members aboard. Princess Cruises canceled the port calls to Nawiliwili and Lahaina for the rest of its Hawaii voyage, offering 2,592 passengers full refunds and airfare back to San Francisco.
18. Kaylyn Rose Sommer Overboard Ends Mad Decent Boat Party
Kaylyn Rose Sommer, 24, from Charleston, South Carolina was a cruise ship passenger aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Pearl on November 12, 2015. Sommer, fell overboard from 11th deck while the ship was 22 nautical miles off the coast of Cuba. Reports say the captain had made several announcements for passengers to stop climbing on balconies and jumping from one balcony to another. The concert stopped as search and rescue took front stage and the cruise turned into a 'cruise to nowhere' because of the event. The captain turned the ship back to Florida after being released from the search and got nobody got to go to Cozumel, Mexico.
19. Carol Dimas Broad Daylight Suicide
Carol Ann Dimas, 65, from San Jose, California. Dimas jumped overboard from Deck 9 or 11, an hour after the ship left the port of Roatan sailing towards Grand Cayman. Dimas jumped overboard in broad daylight, in full view of many passengers, some were children who became distraught. This case prompted the launch of our series on effects of cruise ship suicides on others.
20. Child Orphaned at Sea
Richard Williams, 39, from Dexter, Missouri was aboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Fantasy with his son on Monday June 15, 2015 when he passed away suddenly in his cruise ship cabin. Disney Fantasy was sailing towards the Cayman Islands when he died in his cabin while his son was in the kid center. Richard Williams was a single parent raising his son Tayton Williams, 5, alone after Tayton Williams' mother Kerri Jo Stearns, 36, passed away two months prior. It was the first case in our history where a child was orphaned at sea on a cruise ship.
21. Woman Jumps Overboard, Body Hits Passenger on Balcony
A'riel Brianna Marion, 21, from Tennessee was sailing aboard Allure of the Seas with her mother on September 16, 2012, when she went overboard. A three year FBI investigation concluded this year with a determination of suicide. When Marion jumped overboard her falling body struck a passenger who was out on their balcony. That passenger reported bring hit by a falling object. A search of the sea began after it was determined it wasn't an object overboard, it was a body. While falling bodies have a hit areas of the ship on the way down, this is the first case in our history where a falling body struck another person on the cruise ship as it plummeted to sea.
22. Christina Ricci Falls, Hits Head, Medivac GoFundMe
September 11, 2015, Christina Marie Ricci, 24, from Pembroke, New Hampshire was aboard Carnival Victory for a cruise to the Bahamas with her boyfriend. Around midnight on the first night of the cruise, she fell hard, hit the back of her head and received a medevac to Miami. Ricci was in a coma for weeks and a Gofundme charity drive was launched. Ricci, a unionized health worker, later died.
23. Wife Overboard Book Cruise Bruise in Print
March 23, 2015 a book titled Wife Overboard was launched by author Steve Colbourne. The book was based on numerous cases featured on our Cruise Bruise, Cruise Ship Missing and Cruise Ship Deaths websites. We reviewed the book and launched a companion guide which outlines where to find the cases mentioned in the book on our websites. Colbourne has kindly sent us signed copies of his book.
24. Tortola Bus Crash Injures 20
December 6, 2015, a privately owned tour-bus full of Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship passengers, crashed at Cane Garden Bay in the British Virgin Islands of Tortola. Twenty passengers aboard the bus were injured and taken to a local hospital. Two female passengers from the United States died from their injuries.
25. Tampa 8 Cocain Smugglers
March 8, 2015 Jason Leon Carmichael, 21, Arkine John, 21, Alfred Kernel Elvis Ince, 24, Teffan Shem Delice, 29, and Johnson Dwain Cherubin, 30, Desrick Devon Gordon, 23 were crew members who worked in the galley aboard Norwegian Sun. The six were arrested for smuggling more than five kilos of cocaine into Tampa, Florida along with two female accomplices. Desrick Devon Gordon tried to escape the long arm of the law, but was arrested in New York. His cohorts in crime all made plea agreements to lessor crimes. Desrick Devon Gordon rolled the dice on a jury trial and lost, thinking he had out-smarted law enforcement. A security camera video from the port was a key piece of evidence tying him to the smuggling operation. He faces sentencing in March 2016 on all charges.
26. Galley Crew Member Smuggles 67 Pounds Cannabis
September 16, 2015 Lindel Primus, 30, a galley crew member from Grenada aboard the Norwegian Breakaway was arrested for conspiring to import 1,898.5 grams (67 pounds) of cannabis into Bermuda and possessing the drugs with intent to supply. During a routine pat-down, four packages were found concealed under blue spandex bike shorts and secured with rubber bands. The drugs would have had a street value of $94,925. Primus originally denied the offense, then plead guilty. Primus admitted to smuggling the cannabis into Bermuda twice before. On October 1, 2015, Primus was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
27. Norwegian Cruise Line Roatan Cocaine Arrest
Kenneth Antonio Salas Taylor, 36, a crew member working aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship in the galley as an assistant cook, was arrested with a kilo of cocaine while the cruise ship was in Roatan. Taylor was arrested after the crew of the ship detected "irregularities" and alerted the authorities.
28. Crocodile River Boat Captain, Drug Sumggler - Pirate Dies
On May 26, 2015, crocodile river tour boat captain Dennis Lee Lafferty, 75, died in Daintree, Queensland, Australia during a vehicle accident on Mossman Daintree Rd. A Cruise Bruise investigation uncovered that back in the U.S. Dennis Lee Lafferty was known as fisherman, charter boat captain and marijuana smuggler, Raymond Grady Stansel Jr, 78, from Tarpon Springs, Florida who died on December 31, 1974 before he could be convicted of his crimes.
29. Mom Smuggled the Drugs
April 13, 2014, Kevin Celli was arrested in Nassau, Bahamas with cocaine in his possession. Celli faced three months in jail after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine. His mom, wife and son left Bermuda on the cruise ship, leaving him behind to face the music. This case made our 2015 list after somebody identifying themselves in an email received this year as his mom, told us it was actually mom who smuggled the drugs, and Celli took the fall for it. The email IP address was tied to Celli's home town of Cape May. This was another Cruise Bruise first.
30. Woman Sells Pot Store To Go On Cruise
While we have seen dozens of odd Gofundme cases trying to fund a cruise, out of the over 100 we feature on Cruise Bruise, none compare in the odd category like the woman from Washington who is selling her medical marijuana store, so she can go on a cruise.
Peyton Johnson's Appendix Mexico Medivac, No Money, No Passport
A cruise ship passenger's family from Springfield, Ohio drove to Galveston, Texas to embark on Carnival Triumph on Monday, June 1, 2015. The family, on a Caribbean cruise to Mexico, was left pleading for help from strangers, when a child in the family needed medical attention while in Mexico. This mother and three children were on a cruise with $21 in their pockets, on a cruise ship sailing in Mexico waters, without passports or travel insurance.
32. Guatemalan Judge Héctor Trujillo Cruise Ship Arrest
December 4, 2015 Guatemalan Judge Héctor Trujillo, 62, was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who boarded Disney Dream and went to Trujillo's cruise ship cabin where he was arrested. Hector Trujillo knew the indictment was coming that week a took a 'bucket list cruise'. The 240 page indictment by the United States Attorney was based on soccer federation money laundering, bribes and kickbacks over a period of decades, involving countries bidding to host the world games. The court documents we attained include the indictment. The indictment says, "Over the period of the Indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators were involved in criminal schemes involving the agreement to pay and receive well over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks.".
33. Keith White Leaning Over Railing Fell Overboard
Keith White, 34, a welding technologist and certified lifeguard from London, Ontario, Canada, was sailing aboard Mariposa Cruises' Northern Spirit on Lake Ontario Saturday, June 13, 2015. Around 7:35 p.m, according to friends he was leaning over the railing and fell overboard.34. George Uthuppu Fell Overboard While Sitting On Railing
On March 17, 2015, George Uthuppu, 54, from Kingwood, Texas was on a birthday celebration cruise with his wife Mary, when he went overboard in the Gulf Of Mexico. He was aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Triumph when he was seen by security camera sitting on the railing of his cabin balcony and falling overboard. It's no mystery, sitting on the railing of a cruise ship often results in cruise ship overboard deaths. According to the autopsy, George Uthuppu was under the influence of alcohol at the time. The cause of death was multiple trauma and a burst liver, caused by falling 30 meters into the water.
35. Rajkumar Agarwal Overboard After Leaving Casino
October 7, 2015, Rajkumar Agarwal went overboard from Super Star Gemini. Agarwal fell overboard as the cruise ship was in the Strait of Malacca en route to Singapore, Agarwal had just left the casino and had posted online during the cruise that he had lost money. An informant and later the wealthy family made contact with us and from those communications a Cruise Bruise investigation was launched.
36. Frank Andrew Filippo Seen Climbing Over Railing
Frank Andrew Filippo, 43, from the Tampa, Florida, was an employee for Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC). Filippo was cruising on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Liberty Of The Seas on Sunday March 22, 2015 when Filippo went overboard as the Liberty Of The Sea was returning to Port Everglades, Florida. The cruise ship was about 20 miles off the coast of Marathon, Florida, in the Florida Keys at the time of the event. Royal Caribbean says Liberty Of The Seas security camera shows the man climbing over the railing on deck 12 on the last night of the night cruise.
37. Walker Stalker Cruise Con
Walker Stalker Con Cruise Ship Walking Dead Cruise has been booked aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl. Walker Cruise Con, the first Walking Dead cruise has been set for January 15-18, 2016. The Norwegian Pearl will be sailing with Walking Dead fans to the Bahamas. Walker Stalkers will be treated to television show cast and make-up artists sailing aboard The Dead Cruise from Miami, Florida to Nassau in the Bahamas.
38. Lawsuit Filed in Passenger Steak Choking Death
Betty B Novick, 75 and her husband Joseph A Novick, 78 from Boynton Beach, Florida were sailing at sea between St. Lucia and Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Pearl on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 when Betty Novick died while dining in the Le Bistro Restaurant aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship when she choked on a piece of steak and died. Her husband sued the cruise line claiming an employee didn't cut up her steak into small enough pieces, causing her to choke. Mr. Novick had broken his arm during the cruise, had his arm in a sling and asked an employee to cut up the steak for his wife, something he typical did for her.
39. Teacher of the Year Dies on Cruise
Darryl Butler, 34, from the Dallas, Texas area was on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Navigator Of The Seas with his wife Courtney Butler for their first wedding anniversary on Thursday, July 9, 2015. when he passed away while the cruise ship was in Roatan, Honduras. Darryl Butler, originally from San Antonio, Texas, where he was buried, had been a teacher for seven years. He taught 6th grade social studies and was Lakeside Middle School Little Elm Secondary Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015. The family launched a Gofundme campaign to bring his home.
40. I wish I could stay here forever, Snorkeling Death
November 4, 2015 Ian Michael Scott-Ellis, 49, from Mount Holly, North Carolina was a cruise ship passenger aboard Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Fantasy in Grand Turk on November 4, 2015. While Ian was snorkeling, he suddenly died. The family launched a Gofundme fund-raiser to bring his body home. The photo of Ian at Grand Turk (seen on the case page) shows Scott-Ellis standing under a sign which says, "I wish I could stay here forever", with Carnival Fantasy seen in the background.
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