Final August, Marilyn Jones and her husband, Robert, set out from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on an eight-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Celeb Equinox.
The couple, of Bonifay, Fla., had been simply two days into the journey when Robert Jones, 79, died of a coronary heart assault.
Celeb Cruises offered Ms. Jones with two choices, based on a federal lawsuit that she filed in opposition to the cruise line this week: disembark along with her husband’s physique in San Juan, P.R., or conform to have it saved within the ship’s morgue till it returned to Florida six days later.
She opted to stay with the ship. However when a funeral house employee and a Broward County sheriff’s deputy got here aboard in Fort Lauderdale to retrieve Mr. Jones’s physique, they found that it had been moved from the morgue to a cooler on a special flooring, based on the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Courtroom for the Southern District of Florida.
Having been saved at an inadequate temperature, the physique had “horrifically decomposed,” the lawsuit mentioned, stopping his household from having an open casket at his wake and funeral.
For her trauma, Ms. Jones, who had been married to her husband for 55 years, and her household are looking for a jury trial and at the very least $1 million in damages.
In an announcement, Celeb Cruises declined to remark, citing “the sensitivity of the alleged details and out of respect for the household.”
The lawsuit, which was reported by Miami New Instances, mentioned members of the ship’s crew instructed Ms. Jones that there was a “50/50 shot” if she bought off the ship in San Juan that the coroner’s workplace there would take possession of her husband’s physique for an post-mortem earlier than releasing it to a funeral house. She was instructed she must keep in Puerto Rico along with his physique and make preparations on her personal to get it, and herself, again to Florida.
Assured that the Equinox was geared up to securely transport her husband’s physique again to Fort Lauderdale, Ms. Jones, who was 78 on the time and out of the blue touring alone, gave the crew permission to retailer his physique within the ship’s morgue and agreed to stay on board for the remainder of the cruise, the lawsuit says.
“She was given a really tough alternative,” Thomas Carey, a lawyer representing Ms. Jones, her two daughters and three grandchildren, who’re additionally plaintiffs within the lawsuit, mentioned in an interview on Friday. “She logically chosen the ship’s morgue,” he mentioned, after she was assured it had a working facility.
“At some unknown level,” he mentioned, “someone found that the refrigeration was not working.”
When the funeral house employee and the sheriff’s deputy discovered that Mr. Jones’s physique was not within the morgue however had been moved to a beverage cooler, the lawsuit mentioned, it was “instantly clear” that it was within the superior phases of decomposition, the lawsuit mentioned. The physique, it mentioned, had expanded with gasoline and “his pores and skin had turned inexperienced.”
The cooler was supposed for issues like soda, Mr. Carey mentioned, and was not practically chilly sufficient to retailer a human physique.
Like all cruise ships, the Celeb Equinox, which is registered in Malta and may carry as much as 2,852 folks, is required to have a morgue as a result of onboard deaths usually are not unusual, mentioned Hendrik Keijer, a marine operations professional who served for 10 years as a captain on Holland America Line cruise ships.
“For some folks it’s their final trip, sadly,” Mr. Keijer mentioned. “That’s why morgues are onboard.”
Jacob Munch, a maritime lawyer who can also be representing Ms. Jones in her lawsuit, mentioned cruise traces have an obligation to keep up the morgues.
“It’s incumbent on them to ensure they’re working correctly,” he mentioned in an interview, “particularly in delicate conditions like this. She’s turning to them for recommendation.”
If Ms. Jones had recognized the ship didn’t have a working morgue, the lawsuit mentioned, she would have chosen to take her husband’s physique off the ship in Puerto Rico. Celeb Cruises’ dealing with of the matter had been “reckless and careless,” it mentioned.
Ms. Jones and her household are “devastated” and can wrestle to heal, Mr. Carey mentioned.
“For the remainder of her life,” he mentioned, “she’s going to have to consider this.”