(CBS News) The investigation continues Tuesday after a 6-year-old boy drowned while swimming in a pool on board a Carnival cruise ship. It happened just a few feet from his family and other horrified passengers. The death is the latest blow for the beleaguered cruise industry.
Carnival says this is the first time a child has drowned aboard one of its ships. Passengers tried to help, but it came too late.
Sunday afternoon, Qwentyn Hunter was swimming with his family in one of the pools on the Carnival ship Victory. The family was enjoying the final leg of a four-day Caribbean cruise.
Passenger Shaina Shaw recalled, “Out of nowhere, I heard all of this commotion. ... And I realized it was the same little boy I had seen playing with his older brother and his mother and his father in the very shallow end of the pool.”
Like most cruise lines, Carnival does not provide lifeguards on its ships. Passengers rushed in to try to rescue Qwentyn. Shaw said, “I actually helped prop his body up in proper position so they could perform CPR. Everyone was crying. The family was distraught. They had to pull the mother away, and the father. The father was next to his son pleading and begging his son to stay alive.”
The boy did not survive. Carnival told “CBS This Morning”: “As with many land-based hotels and resorts with swimming pools, cruise ships provide conspicuous signage to alert passengers that a lifeguard is not on duty. ... Parental supervision is required for children under 13. In this case, there was a parent present at the time of the incident.”
Carole Finklehoffe, an attorney at Leesfield & Partners, specializes in maritime law. She used to represent cruise lines, but now brings lawsuits against them.
“Is it reasonable to put a lifeguard around the pools?” Finklehoffe asked. “Yes, it is reasonable to put a lifeguard around the pools. And the cruise lines are just not taking this reasonable step.”
Finklehoffe says passengers are easily distracted on pool decks, and warning signs are not enough.
“They have deck attendants and pool attendants walking around selling drinks,” she said. “They can have someone up by the slide, when passengers go down. Why can’t they just have someone next to the pool?”
On Monday, after the ship docked at the Port of Miami, some passengers were still shaken by what they saw.
“Poor family has to go on vacation with their child and come back without them? It’s not fair,” Shaw said.
Police say the boy’s death appears to be an accident and that no foul play was involved. Carnival says it extends its heartfelt sympathies to the family, and that its care team is providing assistance and support.