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Katelyn A. Blair
Colleen Blair v Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Sued for Child Passenger Drowning Death

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Cruise Bruise Investigates - Colleen Blair v Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Sued for Child Passenger Drowning Death on May 17, 2015

Cruise Bruise Investigates - A Mother's Day Tragedy

Having just celebrated Mother's Day the Sunday before, the next Sunday on May 17, 2015 cruise ship passenger Colleen Blair, from Brooklyn, New York, was sailing aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem on day two of a 7-day Bahamas cruise, with her three children. Two of her children were in the adult pool on deck 12 without her constant supervision. Both had to be rescued, one of the children died. Cruise Bruise Investigates has learned from an online obituary, the child is Katelyn A. Blair from Brooklyn, New York.

Colleen Blair, Katelyn’s mother, has filed a lawsuit nearly a year later on April 22, 2016, putting full blame on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for the drowning death of her daughter. She is also suing all the doctors and nurses on the cruise ship for not saving her daughter after she was pulled from the water in the adult swimming pool by other passengers. But, it wasn't just the 10-year-old who got into danger in the adult pool, another of her children, age 6, had to be rescued as well after the mother of three "lost sight" of her children, according to the lawsuit.

This story begins long before this cruise. It was a well-publicized story on the morning of Monday February 3, 2014, when Dante Curtis, 4, also from Brooklyn, New York was in the swimming pool also with a non-swimmer sibling, aboard another NCL cruise ship, Norwegian Breakaway. Curtis was with his 6-year-old brother, when both boys went under the water in what was reported as "the adult" swimming pool.

Cruise Bruise Investigated the Dante Curtis case on Cruise Ship Deaths, it was all over social media, online newspapers, television news stories for days, weeks and months. The complaint in the Blair case documents the prior case. There was nearly continuous media talk about the fact that there were no lifeguards on the NCL cruise ships. In fact, other than public beaches in some countries, nearly all private vacation destinations such as cruise ships, resorts and hotels do not supply lifeguards. Signs are posted to swim at "your own risk" where there are no lifeguards provided. Colleen Blair chose to take this cruise on a NCL ship in spite of widespread media reports about the risks these unsupervised swimming pools would pose to her swimming deficient children.

The responsibility for ensuring children can swim resides 100% with the parent. Collen Blair had nine years to ensure her daughter could swim proficiently, be safe around water AND she had access to free resources which she could have taken advantage of year after year. New York City Parks Department, where the family of Dante Curtis and Colleen Blair's family lives, offers all residents access to FREE aquatic programs for children under 18, all year round. If Katelyn had any swim lessons at all, she apparently hadn’t reached a proficiency level compatible with a water focused vacation.

Both cruise ships had two days at sea in the beginning of the cruise from New York and two days at sea at the end of the cruise back to New York. This is a water-focused cruise for children, the water slide is visual proof of why a parent would take a child on this ship. But, these kids were not in the kid's play area of the pool deck, they were unsupervised in an area for adults only.

When reading the lawsuit, consider this important fact regarding the sad death of Katelyn Blair. The child drowned on the second day of the cruise while the cruise ship was off the coast of South Carolina, heading towards Florida. Colleen Blair had already been on the ship overnight, had time to sleep on the issues surrounding the safety of her three children while aboard the ship. She was aware by then, if she wasn't aware from the posted signs around the swimming pool on day one, that there were no lifeguards on the cruise ship and she needed to actively parent, protect and supervise all her children, all of the time.

One passenger who witnessed the event said on a blog,"As a parent traveling with 3 kids, I agree it is our responsibility to watch our children." That passenger was exactly right. The ticket contract each passenger signs as well as the PARENT / GUARDIAN CONSENT & RELEASE FORM Dated January 30 2012, which all parents on this cruise signed, are clear as to who has the responsibility for children aboard the cruise ship.

The lawsuit says that, Colleen Blair had 3 minor children on the cruise and "During the subject cruise voyage, the vessel had an extremely dangerous hidden condition, which was that there were no lifeguards onboard." That "extremely dangerous hidden condition" was a swimming pool with no lifeguard, something Blair was aware of the day before, at minimum. But,the only way the condition could possibly be considered "hidden" would be for blind passengers. As our photo slider at the top of the page shows, a sign similar to this one is posted near NCL cruise ship pools with pool rules. It includes the fact that there are "no lifeguards on duty" AND "under 12 must be accompanied by an adult" AND "use the pool at your own risk". Since those are the kid's pool rules, the adult pool rules are accepted for those three specific rules as well.

The lawsuit goes on to say, "In addition, all of K.A.B.’s family present at the scene of the incident were harmed by bearing witness to the terror of seeing their immediate family member lose her life. ". The lawsuit says that "family" present at the scene of Katelyn's death were traumatized by the event and witnessing the event. Who are those "family" members who witnessed the incident and were any of them adults who could have prevented the death? The lawsuit doesn't say.

As we have stated in other articles, particularly in those cruise ship overboard cases, everyone who sees a death at sea is traumatized, to some degree. When a family member decides to jump off the ship, other family members can't prevent it. Jumpers will find a way to jump if they are intent on ending their life. In a swimming pool drowning case involving a child, the trauma experienced goes beyond the immediately family as well. However, it was the family who should have prevented other passengers from being traumatized by this child's death, simply by actively parenting their own child.

The main pool area aboard the Norwegian Gem is known as The Tahitian Pool, a designated adult only swimming pool, located in the middle of the ship on Deck 12. The Tahitian Pool area consists of two pools surrounded by four whirlpools. Some of those who were on the ship, near the Tahitian Pool that day, say the pool was "very busy", the lawsuit states the pool was "extremely crowded". That in itself escalates the need for hand's on parenting to keep children out of areas where they don't belong and which present a clear danger to them.

Reading the lawsuit, through the link provided in our article resources list below, Colleen Blair v Norwegian Cruise Line, you will note two very important facts. In the cruise ship pool photo provided within the lawsuit complaint document, the pool is very crowded AND there are NO children in the area around or within the swimming pool. However, all along the edge of the child swimming pool and water slide there is a second story walkway on the second level where passengers and crew can see the entire, shallow, designated child's swimming pool and water slide landing area.

It’s nothing less than shocking, that Colleen Blair seeks to be paid with a jury award for all the money Katelyn will not earn as an adult, specifically, her parent’s (estate) loss of a child’s “net accumulations” outlined in the following paragraph within the lawsuit complaint.

"The Estate of K.A.B. incurred funeral and medical expenses. Also, the estate lost the benefit of the net accumulations that K.A.B. would have obtained had she lived to his(sic) normal life expectancy".

It's worth noting, the lawsuit demands a jury trial. The jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault for NCL and for Colleen Blair. By adding as many other elements of compensation as possible, such as the anticipated earnings of child for the rest of her natural life, it increases the end amount Blair will get no matter how much blame is given to her, and increases the amount the attorney will get in his share..

Also troubling, from a legal point of view, is the odd appearance of Carnival Cruise Line blame in this incident. Item 59 of the complaint states, "As a result of CARNIVAL’S negligence, the following damages were incurred: "Their charges for medical treatment and medicine were charged directly to passenger’s “Sail & Sign” account (or the equivalent shipboard credit card). . ."

Carnival's negligence? These two cruise lines are in no way connected. Norwegian Cruise Line is a publicly traded company with 44.1% publicly listed on NASDAQ, with major shareholders including Genting Group (28.0%), Apollo Global Management (20.0%), and TPG Capital (7.9%) as of 30 June 2014. The ticket contract for Norwegian Cruise Line is clear on passenger incurred expenses for the medical care aboard the cruise ship.

The lawsuit makes ONE really GOOD valid point though, which we need to acknowledge. The lawsuit alleges that Disney Cruise Line has lifeguards on their ships, yet Norwegian Cruise Line doesn't, as if in either case this affects the responsibility of children’s parents to supervise their own child aboard cruise ships. Disney Cruise Line's lifeguards are a well-documented, publicized fact.So, one has to wonder, with three children, at least two who couldn't swim proficiently, why was this family on a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage, instead of Disney Cruise Line voyage?

As we see in another case below, just because Disney has a lifeguard for the pool, doesn’t mean a child won’t drown and at least one child at a Disney resort has. Having a lifeguard present in no way excludes parents from the responsibility to make sure their child has been properly trained to swim before taking them to any swimming pool, no matter where the pool is located.

The Facts Not Written in the Lawsuit: NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE TICKET CONTRACT

"(c) Guests under 21: Any Guest under 21 years of age is considered a minor. Any Guest under the age of 21 must be accompanied in the same, connecting, or side by side stateroom by a Guest 21 years of age or older at the time of embarkation who expressly agrees to be responsible for the under-21 Guest throughout the cruise. The Guest agrees that this responsibility includes, but is not limited to, preventing the under-21 Guest from violating the vessel's rules, including preventing the under-21 Guest from purchasing and/or consuming alcohol and/or gambling on board the vessel, except as set forth herein.

(d) Minors: If the Guest is an adult accompanying a minor or minors under the age of 18, and the adult Guest is not a spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the minor(s), the adult Guest must present an original Parent/Guardian Consent & Release Form, signed by both parents/legal guardians of the minor which authorizes the minor's travel, and further authorizes medical treatment in case of emergency, to a representative of the Carrier at the pier. If the adult Guest is the spouse of a minor, the adult Guest must present a certified copy of a valid marriage certificate to a representative of the Carrier at the pier. Failure to present any of the aforementioned documentation may result in boarding being denied with no refund provided. When accompanying a minor or minors on the vessel, the adult Guest agrees to be the agent of such minor(s) for all purposes, to accept full responsibility for supervising such minor(s) and to bear full responsibility for the actions of such minor(s). The adult Guest further agrees that the Carrier is not liable for injury to minor(s) in the adult Guest's charge arising from the willful or negligent acts or omissions of other Guests or persons who are otherwise not acting on behalf of the Carrier. The adult Guest also agrees that under no circumstances will a minor be left aboard the vessel, other than in the care of the vessel's Kids' Crew or Teen's Crew programs, while the adult Guest responsible for the minor leaves the vessel for any reason, and in such circumstance the adult Guest agrees to indemnify and hold Carrier harmless for any and all loss, injury, or death of the minor or any other person involving the minor whatsoever."

PARENT / GUARDIAN CONSENT & RELEASE FORM Dated January 30 2012

"In consideration of the mutual undertakings of the parties and other good and valuable considerations, the receipt and sufficiency of which are acknowledged, the undersigned covenant(s) and Agree(s) as follows:
The undersigned hereby authorize(s) and consent(s) to the MINOR(s) sailing on board a Norwegian vessel and further hereby authorize(s) and consent(s) to the examination, diagnosis, treatment and care rendered to the MINOR(s) which, in the sole opinion of the ship’s physician or any other medical personnel acting under his or her supervision, may be necessary or appropriate under the circumstances.

The undersigned further agree(s) to be fully responsible for any and all medical expenses associated with the diagnosis, care and treatment of the MINOR(s), including emergency air ambulance evacuation, if necessary, and to indemnify and hold Norwegian and its vessels harmless from any liability for any and all costs or expenses incurred as a result of the medical treatment of the MINOR(s).

The undersigned shall indemnify and hold Norwegian and its vessels harmless from any and all bodily injury, death, property damage, cost and expenses (including reasonable attorney’s fees)suffered by any person or entity, including, but not limited to, other guests, Norwegian, its employees and vessels due to any act or omission of the MINOR(s) while on board a Norwegian vessel,whether intentional or not.

The undersigned affirm(s) that the terms and conditions stated in the guest ticket contract have been accepted by all parties. The undersigned acknowledges that the execution of this consent and release was freely and voluntarily made and that the undersigned has/have read and understand(s) this consent and releaseand fully agree(s) to each and every term contained therein."

Common Problem: Other 2015 Vacation, Hotel, Resort Child Drowning Deaths

January 26, 2015, Noah Beckley, 7, drowned at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Comfort Suites during a birthday party. The Medical Examiner's Office says the boy jumped into the water -- but he could not swim. The boy was pulled from the water three to five minutes after jumping in, and he was resuscitated. He was then taken to Milwaukee Children's Hospital, where he died.

May 29, 2015, around 5:15 pm, John Robert Rosario, 6, from Salemburg, North Carolina, drown during a family reunion at the Oriental Marina and Inn swimming pool. The drowning happened in the shallow end of the pool in just three feet of water. In a statement on the incident, Pamlico County Sheriff Chris Davis encouraged parents and family members to be vigilant while children are playing near water. "I think the most important thing is to pay attention and be involved with the kids while they're swimming," he said. "All it takes is a minute if you're not paying attention."

June 14, 2015, Muhammad Syafizul Danyal Muhammad Shaffie, 7, had ventured into a deep section of the pool at Resorts World Sentosa's Hard Rock Hotel, where he drowned. State Coroner Marvin Bay ruled Syafizul's death to be a "sad misadventure".

July 5, 2015, Gabriel Guzman, 2, drowned at the Oceanside Inn in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida during the Fourth of July weekend celebration. Daytona Beach Shores Police Sgt. Mike Fowler says surveillance video shows that no one noticed the boy underwater for nine minutes. This was the 7th pool drowning involving a child in Volusia County, Florida in 2015. In all 7 cases, the children were 4 years of age or younger.

July 14, 2015, around 8:00 pm, a 3-year-old boy drowned in a pool at Disney's Art of Animation Resort. The child, who was visiting with his family from New York, somehow became separated from his parents. After a search, the child was found underwater. A Disney representative said lifeguards were on duty at the time of the drowning.

August 20, 2015, around 8:50 pm, Riahnna Alegria, 4, from Rockford, Illinois drowned in the Gurnee Holiday Inn swimming pool. Alejandra DeLuna, 26, who was not at the pool but rushed to the hospital, said she is unsure who first spotted Riahnna underwater and doesn't know who pulled her out. DeLuna, Riahnna's mother, said it appears no one noticed Riahnna had gone under until it was too late. "I'm not blaming anyone," she said.

August 24, 2015, a six-year-old boy drowned in the Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort & Spa main swimming pool. He was pulled from the pool dead and transported to a local hospital.

Earlier Child Vacation, Hotel, Resort Drowning

July 16, 2011, around 9:30 pm, Ron-Deja Lynn Stevenson, 6, drowned at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville, Indiana. Ron-Deja was with family members for a party. Everyone was headed back to their hotel room when they realized Ron-Deja was not with them. They went back to the hotel pool and found her at the botttom of the pool. This incredible, child pool death case summarizes all too well how children drown in cruise ship, resort and hotel swimming pools, when parents are not paying attention to their children.


Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention (CDC), every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.

About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries). These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).

Cruise Bruise Investigates finds, in all of these child drowning death cases, the two main reasons for the unfortunate deaths.
(1)The parent failed to ensure the child had been trained to be a proficient swimmer prior to visiting a swimming pool.
(2)the parents or adults supervising the child failed to provide continuous supervision of the child while at the pool.

Sadly, every Mother's Day these families will be reminded that one child is missing from the Mother's Day celebration due to the preventable drowning death of a child. This Mother's Day, is a reminder to all mothers that being a mother is a difficult, life long job that can be lost in a single moment of not paying attention. As Pamlico County Sheriff Chris Davis says, "be vigilant".

Supporting Information & Resources:
Case Resources

  • Colleen Blair v Norwegian Cruise Line
  • NCL Guest Ticket Contract November 2015
  • NCL Parent Guardian Consent and Release Form 01302012b
  • NYC Parks Swimming Lessons
  • CDC Unintentional Drowning - Get the Facts

  • Featured or New Cruise Ship Incidents

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