South Korean Family Sues Norwegian Cruise Line Over USVI Snorkeling Death

On December 22, 2015, Dae Woo Hwang, his wife Jae Jin Lee, and their two children Joo Hyun Hwang and Joo Bin Hwang from South Korea, were sailing aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape in the United States Virgin Islands.  

The family took an excursion they booked aboard Norwegian Escape for a “Mini Boat Adventure” on the island of Great St. James at the cruise port of St. Thomas.

Almost a year later,  on December 15, 2016, Dae Woo Hwang’s estate filed a lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Lines and the excursion company A & J Tours  and their Captain Nautica boats alleging wrongful death.

The lawsuit alleged the family was not properly trained to snorkel,  to use the snorkeling gear and as a result Dae Woo Hwang died during the excursion.

The lawsuit claimed specifically, “During the excursion, there were only two tour guides for the entire group, and they notified the group that they were stopping to snorkel. Prior to allowing participants to snorkel, the tour guides did not provide the participants, including Mr. Hwang, sufficient instructions or safety guidelines as to how to properly snorkel. In addition, the tour guides advised participants that safety equipment, including life jackets, were optional, and they encouraged participants, including Mr. Hwang, to enter the water despite lacking sufficient safety equipment, education, training, and/or instruction. Further, the equipment available was old and/or defective, including snorkels that lacked dry valves and goggles that were broken, became foggy, and/or leaked, allowing water to enter the goggles.”

Details in the lawsuit outline, “Mr. Hwang was not paired with another participant or staff member. Instead, he was left to snorkel alone without proper training, supervision or oversight, and he was separated from the other snorkelers. At no time during the boat excursion did the tour guides perform an in-water safety evaluation of Mr. Hwang in order to determine whether he could snorkel safely. ”

“As the participants were snorkeling, the waves were very strong. The Plaintiff and her two minor children returned to the vessel. Upon boarding the vessel, Joo Bin Hwang noticed his father, Mr. Hwang, on the floor. The tour guides told Joo Bin Hwang that Mr. Hwang could not breathe, and they asked 11-year-old Joo Bin Hwang to perform CPR on his father, Mr. Hwang. None of the tour guides instructed, aided and/or assisted Joo Bin Hwang in performing CPR on his father, and there was no first aid and/or emergency medical equipment utilized and/or available aboard the vessel. As Joo Bin Hwang was performing CPR, there was water filled in Mr. Hwang’s mouth and nose. After approximately 40 minutes of attempted CPR by 11-year-old Joo Bin Hwang, Mr. Hwang remained unresponsive and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.”

The lawsuit was settled on May 11, 2017 for an undisclosed amount.