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20 People Who Fell Off The Sides Of Cruise Ships

Updated July 9, 2019 115.0k views20 items

A cruise is supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, but for the people on this list, a fun time quickly turned into a horrifying one. All of these people fell off cruise ships, one way or another (many accounts are shaky or light on the details). Some of them survived; some didn't. Some were never found.

Falling off a cruise ship is a terrifying experience because you can fall as many as 100 feet into the water. If you survive the fall, you have to hope that someone realizes you're gone right away and tells the ship to come back for you. If it happens at night, you'll be waiting to be rescued while it's pitch black – if you get rescued at all.

These cruise ship stories – as well as tales of people who disappeared from cruise ships without a trace –might make you think twice about going on a cruise for your next spring break.

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  • Lynsey O'Brien, Costa Cruises, 2006

    Lynsey O'Brien, 15, went missing while on a Costa Cruises Costa Magica cruise in January of 2006. She had gone on the cruise with her parents and siblings. 

    O'Brien wound up drinking in one of the ship's bars. Her older sister spotted her and took her back to her cabin. There, her parents gave her water and told her they'd talk in the morning. Yet in the middle of the night, O'Brien's younger sister ran out of her cabin screaming, stating that O'Brien that gone outside to vomit and fell overboard. Rescue efforts were unsuccessful. 

    O'Brien's family would blame the cruise line. For one, they said the efforts to stop and search for their daughter were handled poorly. Kurt Byrd, an Ohio police officer who commanded an underwater search and rescue unit, had been staying on the floor above and told ABC News that he agreed. But more significantly, they later learned that the bartender who served O'Brien had allowed her to consume about 10 drinks in an hour and a half. That bartender was later fired. 

  • Sarah Kirby, Carnival, 2012

    Sarah Kirby, 31, was on a cruise in the Caribbean when she became extremely intoxicated and went out onto her balcony to get some fresh air. She lost her grip on the banister of the balcony and fell. She was rescued after about two hours in the water. She suffered from hypothermia and several broken bones.

    Kirby filed a lawsuit against Carnival cruises, alleging that a bartender encouraged her to get extremely drunk and that the ship's crew delayed her rescue.

  • Leighton George Carter, Ocean Village, 2008

    71-year-old Leighton George Carter was on a cruise with his family in the Adriatic Sea when he fell to his death. According to witnesses, he lost his balance while he was trying to look over a guard railing by standing on a lounge chair. An autopsy concluded that he was not intoxicated, and the cause of death was a head injury.

  • Photo: size4riggerboots / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    Unnamed American Woman, Windstar Cruises, 2015

    A 43-year-old American woman went overboard from a cruise ship on its way to Portoferraio, Italy. The woman was traveling with a group of friends, including her boyfriend. Several passengers saw her fall, and one account suggested she was arguing with someone before she went over.

    One crew member says she was intoxicated. She was rescued alive after an hour in the water but never gave a statement about what happened.