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July 2nd, 2013

After Nearly Drowning on Disney Cruise, Boy Shows Significant Improvements

“Can a sign prevent kids from drowning on cruise ships?” This is just one of the many questions raised when Chase Lykken, a 4-year-old boy, nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship on March 30, 2013.

Just hours after getting on board the Disney Fantasy, the toddler almost drowned in the ship’s pool. Initial reports say the boy received treatment at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida.

The spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line, Rena Langley, confirmed this incident, saying it occurred while the ship was still at Port Canaveral.

“On Saturday afternoon, our medical personnel responded when a child was unresponsive at one of the pools on the Disney Fantasy. The child was quickly transported to the hospital,” Ms. Langley reported.

When the unfortunate incident occurred, Chase was in a grave condition. In addition, it was initially reported that Chase may suffer from brain damage as a result of the near-drowning incident.

But in the months that followed, he was reported to have made significant progress. Still, he has a long way to go. Chase is now responsive and alert. He is currently undergoing therapy.

Chris Dastou, a passenger of the cruise ship, was with his children at the pool when he felt something touch his feet. At first, he thought it was his six-year-old son. So he hooked his feet to lift the child out of the pool water. To his shock, it was the four-year-old Chase’s limp body.

Chase was blue, pale, and not breathing when Mr. Dastou lifted him to the side of the pool.

“I started screaming for help, and everybody rushed over and grabbed him and started to help out,” Mr. Dastou added.

Port Canaveral police determined Chase was deprived of oxygen for about six minutes.

What aggravated this incident was the fact that there were no lifeguards watching the pool area. Could the tragedy been prevented had there been personnel watching over the safety of the pool users?

David Peikin, director of public affairs at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), says companies like Disney inform their passengers of any potential dangers.

“Much like many hotels and resorts with swimming pools, cruise ships utilize conspicuous signage to make individuals aware that a full-time lifeguard is not on duty.”

But are signs enough to prevent any untoward incident in lieu of lifeguards? Are they effective notices for parents to watch over their children during the entire voyage? Is this enough to relieve companies like Disney from any liability arising from deaths or injuries of passengers on board their cruise ship?

No Lifeguards on Board the Cruise Ship

Disney officials contended they acted quickly in getting medical assistance for Chase. But the bigger issue here is why Disney left their pool unattended.

Despite thousands of children on board the Disney Fantasy, it does not have lifeguards. There is no personnel who could watch over the pool area of a cruise ship that carries a maximum capacity of around 4,000 passengers and 1,450 crew members.

A few days prior to Chase’s near-drowning, a 13-year-old boy was also involved in a drowning incident at a Disney resort hotel. Again, there were no lifeguards present.

On March 10, 2013, Anthony Johnson was at the Hippy Dippy pool at the Pop Century Resort when he disappeared under the pool water. When he was pulled out, Johnson was unresponsive. Two days later, he died.

Unlike its cruise ship pools, Disney provides lifeguards at resort pools but only at designated hours. For the Hippy Dippy pool, there are lifeguards from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Beyond that, swimming will be at the guest’s own risk, as the signs around the pool area says.

In a safety report released in 2008, Disney boasts of having trained over 1,200 lifeguards every year. For a company that takes pride in utmost family safety, shouldn’t Disney employed roun-the-clock lifeguards at their pool areas.

The cruise ship injury lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers help passengers and crewmembers who have been injured on cruises.

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