Sight-Seeing Tours and Drowning Accidents

Even though the eastern seaboard states have seen more than their share of bad weather in the last several months, bad weather is not known to interfere with the vacation or business plans of many families and business organizations. In today’s post, our drowning accident lawyer will discuss two recent accidents and how the victims and/or survivors of such accidents may need the services of an experienced drowning accident attorney.

The Cases

At approximately 7:00 PM on Sunday, March 11, a charter helicopter belonging to Liberty Helicopters made of forced landing in New York City’s lower East River. Of the five passengers and one crewman aboard at the aircraft, only the pilot survived while two passengers were pronounced dead at the crash site and three other passengers died at local hospitals. New York City and Port Authority officials reported that the pilot was able to free himself from the wreckage but that the other victims drowned after apparently becoming entangled in “safety harnesses” that were designed to protect passengers during “open door” photography and sight-seeing flights.

Two days later (Tuesday, March 13) one of two chartered buses that were taking 40 Channelview (TX) High School band members and six adult chaperones back to Houston after a spring break trip to Disney World in Orlando left the road near Daphne, AL and plunged some 50 feet down an embankment before coming to rest on the shore of Cowpen Creek. The bus driver, Harry Caligone of Houston (TX) based First Class Tours, died at the scene. According to local news sources, several students had to be freed from the wreckage by rescuers before being transported to local hospitals for treatment. Although the driver of the bus did not drown, if the bus had traveled a few more feet the situation could have been far more tragic.

Who investigates sight-seeing tour drowning accidents?

When a drowning accident occurs, the local police officials have the primary responsibility of securing the accident scene, conducting rescue operations, and recovering the bodies of victims who died at the accident scene. In cases where the accident falls within the jurisdiction of a federal agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration or the National Transportation Safety Board, the appropriate federal agency will assume responsibility for the investigation from the local authorities and then issue a report of its findings at some time in the future.

It is rare for a federal investigative agency to address liability issues when making their reports. Instead, these reports usually focus on the mechanics of the accident (the “how” and accident occurred) rather than the “why” an accident happened. In many such accident cases, the survivors or their families must file a personal injury and/or wrongful death lawsuit to have a jury determine in negligence was a factor in their losses and what damages are owed to the surviving victims or to the families of those who were fatally injured.

In the Liberty Helicopters accident, several factors will need to be addressed when determining liability:

  • Had the helicopter received normal routine maintenance prior to the accident and had all pilot reports regarding maintenance issues been properly addressed?
  • Did the passengers receive a routine safety briefing regarding inflight emergency procedures prior to boarding the aircraft?
  • Was the pilot experienced in over-water operations and did the pilot possess the necessary experience to deal with the more common emergency situations?
  • Were the passengers provided with “personal floatation devices” prior to the helicopter’s flight?

Should any of the above questions be answered in the negative sense, the helicopter’s operating company may be exposed to liability and negligence issues that will probably result in a lawsuit.

How drowning accident lawyers serve the needs of their clients

While most sightseeing and vacation tours are completed without incident, accidents have happened in the past and more such accidents will undoubtedly occur in the future. As mentioned above, liability for drowning and similar accidents must usually be determined by way of a civil lawsuit and a jury’s verdict.

Drowning accident lawyers are familiar with how local courts tend to address liability issues and will know which courts (state courts versus federal courts) are most receptive to lawsuits alleging negligence on the part of a tour company operator. Using their knowledge of the courts, a drowning accident lawyer will often recommend which court should hear a lawsuit in order to maximize the damages awarded to his or her clients. Furthermore, drowning accident attorneys will have access to investigative techniques that often exceed those available to local agencies.

To conclude this discussion, anyone who has suffered a near-drowning injury or lost a loved one to a recreational outing drowning accident should consult with a personal injury and drowning accident lawyer in order to protect their right to receive compensation for their injuries and other losses.