The lawyer representing the family of a London man in a wrongful death suit says a Transportation Safety Board report found numerous failings.
Phil Millar says the report, released Thursday, shows several problems that he says led to the unnecessary death of 34-year-old Keith White, who fell off the Northern Spirit in June 2015.
The TSB’s report noted that the emergency alarm was not sounded “so as not to further alarm the passengers” and that crew members learned of the situation “by word-of-mouth”. The report also found that “[t]he passenger was intoxicated and had been consuming alcohol before boarding” but the crew failed to detect this and continued to serve the passenger.
“The family has expressed some disappointment that they feel that it’s a little watered down from what they anticipated being in there. However, it does reveal some serious problems with how the cruise line was operated,” says Millar.
“They didn’t follow essentially, it appears, any of the procedures that were required or that should have been done in this case. And the fact that their safety boat – which is designed specifically to recover somebody who falls over – couldn’t be deployed for 47 minutes is a problem.”
White, a trained lifeguard and welding tech at London’s Brose Canada, fell off the Northern Spirit on June 13th, 2015. His body was found July 1st, 2015.
Millar is representing the White family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Mariposa Cruises.
“Our statement of claim has been issued, meaning that the lawsuit has been issued and we received defences. In these types of lawsuits, the next things we usually move towards is the discovery where I get to ask them some questions and they get to ask our family, the White family, some questions. After that, it goes to trial or to mediation or settlement.”
Millar adds that the family is not yet ready to speak publically about the tragedy.
“Their grieving is still going on and this has been fairly traumatic. For them, reading the report essentially they have to relieve every day the fact their son died unnecessarily so at the moment they’re not giving media interviews.”
However, the family has released the following statement through Millar:
It has been tremendously difficult for our family to relive the events contributing to Keith’s clearly unnecessary death. We miss him every day, and his larger than life personality continues to leave a hole in our hearts and family.
The Transport Safety Board (TSB) report has directed a light on the crew’s “ad hoc”, “uncoordinated” and clearly insufficient rescue response. In particular, our family was devastated to learn that no emergency alarm was sounded (despite being the ship’s procedure), because they did not want to “alarm the passengers”. Additionally, it was 46 minutes until the safety boat on board the Northern Spirit was deployed to assist in the rescue of Keith. Man overboard drills had never been conducted by the crew. Additionally, crew did not adhere to muster list responsibilities which contributed to general confusion and lack of role clarity. Our family is reeling as, for us, the TSB investigation reinforces that this incident was very preventable. If a rescue could not be conducted in broad daylight, in ideal marine conditions, with a passenger trained as a lifeguard – this says to us they were not capable of saving any passenger, under any circumstance. We want Mariposa Cruises held accountable for their actions, and we are pursuing legal action against them for a wrongful death suit.
We are also very concerned that the industry known as “booze cruises” continues to be a high risk business. Our family feels strongly that in order to prevent another death, there needs to be a collaboration between Transport Canada and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to have more stringent controls in place for these types of vessels.
We are confident that our lawyer, Phillip Millar, will help us get to the bottom of this through the legal system.
We would ask that all media inquiries be directed to Millars Law.
Meanwhile, Mariposa Cruises has issued a statement of their own, offering condolences to the White family, but admitting no fault:
We offer our condolences to the members of the White family who have lost their loved one. Mariposa Cruises takes the TSB report and findings very seriously. This unfortunate accident was a result of a death by misadventure on the part of the passenger, Mr. Keith White. We believe that this was confirmed by the TSB report. Unfortunately, Mr. White who was intoxicated by nearly 2 1/2 times the legal driving limit, leaned too far over the railing and lost his balance. Notwithstanding immediate attempt by the security staff to save him, he fell into the lake. While it is not the function of TSB to assign fault or determine liability – the report clearly vindicates Mariposa Cruises. With 28 years of safe operation, Mariposa Cruises remains committed to the highest safety standards and will seriously consider the report’s findings as it continues to set the standard for the cruising industry in Ontario.