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“Falling” Off a Cruise Ship?

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It is time for the English language to invent new words for descending through the atmosphere. Technically, anyone who leaves a cruise ship by any means other than the gangway is “falling” – however, I am personally tired of media reports of people “falling from cruise ships” – as if it is the same act as what occurs to people learning how to roller skate.

People rarely if EVER just “fall” from a cruise ship – they jump, they dive, they inch out beyond the safety barriers and either lose their grip or just let go. Once the initial act is effected, they essentially “fall” through the air and into the sea. But what we are missing in almost every media report is the details of what happened immediately before the act of “falling” occured.

Last week we had a woman who was reported as missing. This case was probably the closest case to the infamous George Allen Smith case we have had yet. George Smith was the newlywed who went overboard during a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship in the Adriatic Sea in 2005.

In that case, there were signs of an argument before he disappeared. There were even traces of blood below the balcony where he apparently “fell short” on his way down. This was a sad case, as they all are, but the media could not get enough of speculating about the circumstances and trying to prove there was foul play involved.

In the end, no one was ever charged in that case, and the one person who probably knows more details about it than anyone in the world, Jennifer Hagel (Smith), his new bride at the time, has subsequently announced that she fully believes it was a suicide. She said George was taking lots of prescription drugs that did not mix well with alcohol, as well as anti-depressants for his mental state, and that the night he disappeared he had been drinking excessively.

Through all the speculation, lawsuits and countercharges from his family (who were not there) her story has held up. This is despite the highly unusual circumstances where she could not even account for her own whereabouts at the time of his demise due to her own inebriation.

Jennifer Seitz, who apparently died last week after “falling” from Norwegian Pearl near Cancun, also is believed to have committed suicide. This time the media accusations and innuendo did not last nearly as long as the George Smith case because her very own mother was also on board, and she and the rest of the family all come forward to say that Jennifer was depressed, possibly bi-polar, and that they believe she chose her own fate.

Yesterday, we got yet another report of someone “falling” from a cruise ship. We are even told that he was a crewmember and that his friends (one report even says his family) saw him fall. Excuse me – but where are the details here? How did he fall? That is the the crux of the story, the main factor that puts the entire event into perspective.

Was he drinking? It was just after 1:00 am on New Years Day. Was he out on a railing doing a Kate Winslet “I’m flying?” impersonation. Was he on or off duty?

Hello, media? Please learn to ask the right questions before you report these stories. They should not even be reported unless you can say what the circumstances preceding the “fall” are – or at the very least be prepared to say “we do not yet know how or why the person got around the extensive safety systems in place on the ship.”

Why? Because there ARE extensive safety systems, but a large number of uninformed people who have never been on a ship simply do not get that. I have never seen a single story in a major newspaper about someone “falling” from a cruise ship where some idiot in the “comments” fields below the article doesn’t write something like “well, I’m am sure a crewmember killed them and dumped the body.” Outrageous innuendo and lies!

Even last week, for Jennifer Seitz, I was reading the report in the Miami Herald and someone made that comment, “I’ll bet a crewmember killed her, it happens all the time. It is time for Congress to do something about these floating death traps.”

Puleeeeezzzeeee People! How many times do you have to hear the facts before they intrude on your over-active imagination. No crewmember has ever even been accused of killing a passenger, at least that I know of in recent (post-1990) history. Certainly, no crewmember, or passenger, has ever even been tried or convicted of murder of a passenger on a cruise ship.

“It happens all the time?” Stop watching Jerry Springer and start taking some pride in having at least a modicum of awareness about the real world. What is the problem here? Is it too much violence on TV and Movies, is it people who live in a fantasy world, or is just a lack of care or respect for the truth?

Cruise Ships are by far the safest vacations ever. No passenger or crewmember has ever just “fallen” from a ship unless they were intentionally doing something they were not supposed to be doing.

As least as far as we know – because right now as I write this we still have a media report “pending” that a crewmember has “fallen” off of a cruise ship – but it has not yet been reported how this happened.

Carnival Sensation Crewmember Falls – Update
We know a little more from new reports about the Sensation crewmember who “fell” overboard from the ship. Various TV and radio web sites in Florida say he was either standing on or near the railing and taking pictures.

We assume they mean he was shooting pictures, not posing for them, but we are not sure. He was off duty, and being early after midnight on New Years Day (Eve) he had likely been drinking.

Some passengers said he was standing on a tall place close to the railing and that when the wind came up he lost his balance control. Another report says he was standing “on the railing” but that could mean on a lower crossbar, not the top of the railing. Exactky where he was standing is really not clear, yet.

In either case – it was obviously an accident, but it also has to be said that it was improper procedure to be standing anyplace where a loss of balance could mean going over the edge. So, the young man is not without some responsibility for what happened.

We are sorry for the young man and never mean to take these stories lightly. This is actually one of the first cases of a person “accidentally” going overboard who was not flagrantly doing something he should not have been doing. It is possible the seas were fairly rough and he normally would have felt fairly secure wherever he was standing under normal conditions. But conditions were not normal.

In any case – we are sad it happened, but relieved it did not happen to a passenger. Even with the shared responsibility that would have led to assumptions about cruise ship safety that really are not warranted. The safety is there, it is just up to people to use common sense.

* I am referring to the ships that belong to CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Assn, which includes all of the brands commonly known to American passengers; Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Princess, Holland America, Windstar, Cunard, Oceania, Silversea, Regent, Seabourn, Seadream, Costa, MSC and more.

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Comment from Bob
Time February 7, 2009 at 9:27 am

Amen…You hit the nail right on the head…You CANNOT just fall overboard…You either Jump, get pushed, or do something really stupid….nuff said.

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