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Medics Take an Hour to Reach Injured Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Who Died While Waiting to Receive Care

Tragedy struck in Honduras after a father passed away while diving off a pier in Roatan, an island off the Honduran coast. While these types of incidents are often seen as freak accidents, concerns have been raised regarding how long it took for medics to get to the injured man and whether his life could have been saved had he received care, sooner.

The deceased was a passenger on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The incident occurred on March 15 on a stop in the cruise ship’s week-long voyage.

Another male passenger who was traveling with the victim’s family on the same cruise ship said that he was watching from the beach and saw the man jump off a structure and into the water. When the man came back to the surface, he said he swam out to the victim and helped pull him to shore. He immediately began to perform CPR on the man while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. Unfortunately, once on shore, it took nearly an hour for medical personnel to arrive at the scene.  

The man was jumping into the water from a structure that also served as a zip line platform. Other passengers, including children and teenagers were also jumping off the structure. However, the deceased passenger was the first person who dove in the water. 

The passenger who pulled him from the water said that it took the man a little longer than normal to come back to the surface. When he resurfaced, it appeared as if he was floating. The fact that people on the platform looked like they wanted to jump in after him and were panicking alerted him that something was not right.

After bringing the man back to shore, a woman who said she was a nurse began to perform CPR and administered it to him for at least 45 minutes. However, given the fact that the only tool they had available to them was regular CPR while they waited for 50 minutes before a medical person arrived, the man’s chances of survival were low. 

This incident raises concerns about the safety of individuals traveling outside of the U.S., especially when they need immediate medical attention. Bystanders described the scene as disturbing, as it took so long for medical personnel to arrive.

The man who attempted to save the deceased reported that his 16- and 22-year-old daughters were forced to cover the man with towels and use umbrellas to protect the deceased’s privacy. This was also done to protect the man’s four children and wife.

According to the local newspaper El Heraldo, the deceased man’s body remained on the beach for at least four hours due to the fact that the Public Prosecutor’s Office employees were on strike.  Eventually, his body was returned to the Allure of the Seas to be returned to the U.S.

Normally, when someone dies due to the misconduct or negligence of another person or entity, the family of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim under state law in the state where the injury occurred. However, when someone dies due to misconduct or negligence while at sea, a federal law known as the Death on the High Seas Act or DOHSA comes into play.

Certain qualifications must be met for the DOHSA to become involved. The DOHSA applies to fatal accidents that occur at least three nautical miles from the shore of the United States. If the death occurs within three miles from the shore, that case is governed by state law. Additionally, the DOHSA action must be brought within three years from the date of the accident.

Remedies that can be sought under DOHSA are much more limited than the remedies available under state law or general maritime law. Since DOHSA is a federal law, it preempts state laws and general maritime law.

If a death on the high seas involves a deceased seaman, the family of the deceased is not just limited to the DOHSA for damages. They can seek a claim for damages against the seaman’s employer under the Jones Act. The damages available under the Jones Act are much more extensive than those offered through the DOHSA. Keep in mind the Jones Act only applies to maritime workers, while the DOHSA applies to both maritime and non-maritime individuals.

Cruise ships often are governed by laws of foreign countries, and these laws are not necessarily preempted by U.S. federal law. The family of the deceased may bring a civil legal claim under the laws of a foreign country in a U.S. court. However, they are not able to bring this foreign claim at the same time as a DOHSA claim against the same defendant. Concurrent claims can be brought if these two claims involve two different defendants.

What Damages Are Available under DOHSA? 

Unlike state laws involving wrongful death, damages under DOHSA are limited to pecuniary or financial losses suffered by “qualifying family members” of the deceased victim. Qualifying family members include surviving spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative. Only individuals in those specific categories may bring DOHSA claims.

Also, under DOHSA, any noneconomic damages are not recoverable, including loss of consortium brought by the victim’s spouse or loss of services. Additionally, DOHSA does not pay any damages for pain and suffering the deceased may have suffered prior to his or her death, lost wages pre-death, and mental pain and anguish. By taking noneconomic damages out of the equation, the victim’s family receive far less in a DOHSA case than they would with a state wrongful death case.

When the death involves a deceased maritime worker, the Jones Act does allow claims for pre-death pain and suffering. However, these damages are solely limited to maritime workers and would not cover cases such as this one.

The DOHSA also does not normally pay for medical expenses or funeral expenses since these expenses are often incurred by the estate of the deceased. If a qualifying family member paid these costs, however, a DOHSA claim for reimbursement may be made.

DOHSA Survival Actions

The DOHSA also does not necessarily provide for “survival” causes of action that allow a decedent’s family to recover for injuries they sustain on the high seas that are not the cause of their death, nor the pain and suffering caused during the event. For maritime workers, these actions can be supplemented by other laws, including the Jones Act, which provides remedies for seamen who lose their lives during the course of their employment, but does not provide any remedies for injured passengers. Jones Act claims based on a seafarer’s wrongful death can only be brought by the personal representative of the estate and can only be brought against the deceased’s employer.

Other Options for Families of the Deceased

If the incident that resulted in the wrongful death of the victim occurs within three nautical miles of the shore, the family of the deceased has the ability to bring a cause of action under the state’s wrongful death laws. The state that controls these cases is the state that controls the shore most immediate to the vessel. These laws give the family many more options to pursue claims for damages. Three nautical miles is not a significant distance, unfortunately, which is why most deaths tend to occur outside of that three-mile boundary, which means most cases are limited to the DOHSA.

Maritime Wrongful Death Attorneys: Experience You Can Trust

Given the complexities involved in maritime law, it is important that the Personal Representative of the deceased have a strong legal advocate guiding him or her along in the process, protecting the rights of the deceased’s family and loved ones to receive financial compensation for the decedent’s death. The attorneys and staff at Delgado Trial Attorneys are here to help guide you every step of the way.

The Miami-based cruise ship accident and maritime injury law firm of Delgado Trial Attorneys  possess a skill set that few other maritime attorneys can claim. Raul’s extensive experience representing the cruise lines and developing their defense strategies for years before bringing their skills and training to represent the passengers and crew members that suffered injuries because of a cruise line’s negligence. Combined with Raul Delgado, Sr.’s  45 years of personal injury experience fighting on behalf of injured accident victims, Delgado Trial Attorneys offers a combination of experience in all types of cruise ship personal injuries unlike any of their competitors. Our experience allows us to effectively strategize and advocate for every client we represent. We have handled all types of cruise ship passenger accidents over the years with a focus on slip, trip and falls, medical malpractice, FlowRider accidents, sexual assaults, Death on the High Seas, and more. Contact our law firm today for a free case evaluation. Virtual sign-ups available. Visit to learn more.