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Old May 9th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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Default Family sues RC for their drunken son leaning over a railing


Family sues cruise line over death

A ship's passenger fell overboard while leaning over a railing.

CANFIELD — The mother of a man who fell off a Royal Caribbean cruise ship last year and was never found has filed suit against the cruise line.

Susan DiPiero filed the wrongful-death suit Monday in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on behalf of the estate of 21-year-old Daniel DiPiero, his father, Ronald DiPiero, and his three sisters.

Daniel DiPiero lived with his parents and two of his sisters at their Canfield Township home.

He and a group of friends left Miami for a vacation on the cruise line's Mariner of the Seas on May 14, 2006. His friends reported him missing the morning of May 15.

After his parents met the ship later that week in the U.S. Virgin Islands and watched footage from the ship's surveillance cameras, his family announced that he had fallen overboard about 2:15 a.m. May 15 after leaning over the rail and losing his balance on the ship's fourth deck.

DiPiero had been drinking before he fell over the rail, the cruise line reported after an FBI investigation into the accident. The company said he was served five drinks over a four-hour period — from 8 p.m. to midnight May 14.

The cruise line also said DiPiero and roommates smuggled liquor onboard in their luggage and drank it that afternoon and evening.

Fall captured on tape. The surveillance footage showed DiPiero asleep on a deck chair for two hours before he woke up and leaned over the rail.

In a statement of facts, the suit says DiPiero was cut off from drinking at one of the ship's bars, then went on to another. He was served more drinks until his intoxication became an obvious danger to his own safety, the suit says.

The suit says crew members never intervened to make sure DiPiero made it safely back to his cabin.

It says that based on his age, physical condition and case histories of others who have survived after falling off a ship at sea, it's likely DiPiero survived and suffered for several hours before succumbing to exposure

The suit alleges negligence because Royal Caribbean sells alcohol as a normal part of its business but did nothing to prevent death or injury in a more dangerous "shipboard environment."

It says the cruise line allowed and even enabled DiPiero to get so intoxicated he became a danger to himself, and then continued to serve him.

Safety issues

The suit says the cruise line didn't warn him that it was dangerous to be on an exterior deck near the railing at night while the ship was at sea.

There was no deck watch and no precautions taken to prevent passengers from falling overboard, and no procedure in place to timely detect and respond to such an accident, the suit says.

The company failed to monitor and have a timely review of shipboard surveillance footage, the suit says.

The suit demands a jury trial and personal injury damages in excess of $15,000.

Royal Caribbean had no comment on specific allegations in the suit.

The company reiterated details about the FBI and Coast Guard investigation, saying the digital video recording was thoroughly reviewed.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Daniel DiPiero," the company said in a prepared statement.
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