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Cruise ship line should have prevented deadly gas leak

While injuries sustained on a cruise ship can be caused by slippery decks or unsafe rail guards, some causes of cruise ship injuries are less obvious but can be just as deadly for workers and passengers alike.

Approximately six years ago, Royal Caribbean was the focus on intense media attention after a fatal incident aboard one of their cruise ships. As a result of a gas leak, 19 people aboard the ship sustained injuries and three of the ship's crew members died. Thousands more of passengers were put in danger because of the leak.

A lawsuit was filed against the cruise ship company, alleging that the company didn't take any reasonable measures to protect its passengers and crews from the poisonous gas. There had been holes in the engine room pipes that were patched but did not prevent the gas from leaking out.

The gas that leaked out was hydrogen sulfide; exposure to this particular gas can cause people to lose consciousness and even die. After inspecting the pipes, there was a good amount of corrosion that was missed by the cruise ship or simply ignored. Had earlier notice occurred, the leak may have been prevented.

But even with the three deaths, the cruise ship returned to sea with a new set of passengers only hours after the bodies were taken off the ship. Even more shocking, passengers were not informed of the leak or that there was even a serious problem.

The judge concluded that this particular tragedy reflected "gross indifference" for passenger safety by the cruise ship line. The company knew of the potentially fatal leak yet did not take any steps to fix the problem or protect the passengers from exposure.

Source: NBC LA online, "Exclusive: Cruise Line Demonstrated 'Gross Indifference' to Passengers' Lives," Ana Garcia, 14 June 2011

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