Widow sues US cruise line after husband’s body stored in drinks cooler
A cruise line stored the body of a passenger who died onboard in a drinks cooler for several days, causing the man’s body to turn green and decompose, the man’s widow alleged in a federal lawsuit filed in Florida last week.
The man, Robert Jones, died of a heart attack on 15 August last year while onboard the Celebrity Equinox during a Caribbean cruise. Ship crew members allegedly told his widow, Marilyn Jones, that she could either take the body on shore in San Juan, Puerto Rico, or that they could store it in the working onboard morgue until they returned to Florida. Staffers told her that the body had only a 50% chance of undergoing an autopsy in San Juan and that she would have to remain there alone until the body was autopsied and embalmed, Jones said in the complaint. She chose to keep the body on the ship.
But when the vessel returned to Fort Lauderdale on 21 August, a sheriff’s office deputy and funeral home employee found that Robert Jones’s body had been placed in a bag on a pallet on the floor of a drinks cooler, according to the lawsuit. The room was not cold enough to prevent the body from decomposing, and funeral staff were reportedly not able to salvage the body enough for an open casket funeral. The ship’s required working morgue was not functioning at the time, the lawsuit says.
Marilyn Jones, her daughters, and three grandchildren are suing Celebrity Cruises for $1m in damages.
Celebrity Cruises declined to comment on the case, citing “the sensitivity of the alleged facts and out of respect for the family”.
“The actions and omissions of Celebrity and its crew have tortiously interfered with the body of Robert Jones and with plaintiffs’ last memories of Jones, which has caused extreme trauma by visualizing Mr Jones’s body horrifically decomposed, and knowing their husband and father was callously and casually left in a beverage cooler, stripping him of his dignity in the sacred time just after his passing,” the suit says.