Offshore InjuryBlog

Four Year Old Suffers Brain Damage after Cruise Ship Near-Drowning

On April 9, a 4-year-old boy who suffered brain damage after nearly drowning on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship was transferred to a Minnesota hospital; he had spent nearly two weeks in an Orlando facility. The boy was released from Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando and transferred to Saint Paul Pediatric Hospital in Minnesota, near his home.

The original drowning accident occurred on March 30, shortly after the boy and his family had boarded the cruise ship for their trip to the Western Caribbean. According to witnesses, the boy was not conscious or breathing when he was pulled from the pool. He went without oxygen for several minutes while rescuers performed CPR. He was then immediately taken to Cape Canaveral Hospital and later airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital.

According to information posted on a Facebook page created by the family, the boy suffered brain damage that will affect his motor skills and basic functions like temperature regulation; heart and respiration rates; hunger and thirst; the sleep-wake cycle; and eyesight.

The near-drowning is not just devastating for the boy's family; it also raises questions about the general safety of cruise ships. The pool in which the boy nearly drowned was not manned by a full-time lifeguard; a large sign was all that informed parents of that fact.

In the wake of this tragedy, safety experts wonder if posting signs is sufficient to keep cruise passengers safe? One cruise ship safety expert, interviewed by maritime website gCaptain, says the answer is a resounding no. "Warning signs are not enough," he said. "Cruise ships are designed to distract and entertain passengers, but they also distract parents from monitoring children. Parents can't be expected to be fully attentive to dangers facing their children in an environment filled with views of passing ships, food, alcohol, entertainment and, in the case of Disney, highly distracting movies played poolside."

In an environment like the one the expert describes, it is surprising that more children have not suffered similar fates on cruise ships. With all the money cruise lines spend on entertaining and feeding passengers, why not spend a little more and hire professional lifeguards for their onboard pools? Taking that extra step toward safety could prevent headlines like this one from ever being printed again.

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