Tour Bus crash victims seek answers

POSTED: 07/30/12 1:18 PM

St. Maarten – MSNBC and traveler website CruiseCritic.com have picked up on the story of the tour bus crash that happened at Loterie Farm a little over a week ago. Several Freedom of the Seas cruise passengers injured while on a ship-sponsored excursion and the general tone of the coverage is that “first-hand accounts are emerging that imply the crash may not have simply been a routine traffic accident.”
A spokesperson of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines told Cruise Critic that while the crash was a one-off accident, they’ve decided to suspended the associated tour – a treetop zip line and rope course at Loterie Farm – “until the investigation by the local authorities determines the exact cause of the crash.” Several passengers who were on the bus claimed to already know the cause.
“This was not a traffic accident. It was a function of a very unsafe vehicle being on this steep, down-hill road where it could barely fit, where it had to go into forward and reverse at least three times just to fit onto the small, one-lane road …this could have been completely avoided if Royal Caribbean had used vans,” Bob Jacobs who was on the bus with his children said in a phone conversation with Cruise Critic.
Fellow passenger Matthew Steed agrees with Jacobs that transportation to Loterie Farm should have been conducted using vans and not a bus.
“The problem is this excursion is very much a trek to arrive at the destination, one not best suited for a 40 plus passenger bus,” he wrote in an e-mail.
MSNBC said that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines declined to comment directly on the passenger comments.
Cruisecritic.com is liked by some 56, 774 persons on Facebook and the site lays the blame squarely at the door of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines but at least one – Mark Slagle – disagrees. He thinks the tour operator – Dutch Tour Enterprises N.V. – should bear full responsibility.
“Generally, transportation is based on the number of guests that sign up for a particular excursion. In this instance, I tend to point the blame at the tour operator, not the cruise lines. The cruise lines basically act as an agent between their guests and the local tour company, except in situations like on private islands where the cruise line functions as the tour operator.”
Royal Caribbean released a statement to MSNBC immediately following the accident stating that all of the injured were immediately transported to the local Louis Constant Fleming Hospital for treatment where guest care team members and a ship doctor remained with them at the hospital.
“All returned to the ship the same day. The guest care team and onboard medical team also continued to provide onboard treatment for passengers, including counseling, for those who asked for it.”
The line will not confirm whether any compensation has been offered and added that even if any compensation were offered the details of any compensation discussions are not disclosed. Several posts from people claiming to be passengers of the Freedom of the Seas group that was on the excursion, said that they will not rest until they receive compensation from the cruise line.
Some of the travelers also posted negative reviews of St. Maarten online. One woman, commenting as Kit 7 said that she was thankful not to have been on the excursion but her visit here was memorable for another reason.
“We were accosted immediately upon exiting the ship. While we sat on the beach, woman came up to us constantly and I don’t think anyone understands constantly. I mean every two minutes for the 4 hours we were there. I’m not kidding; to peddle their crap. Yes, we were asked if we wanted to buy drugs, first it was Coke, then weed, and some other drug I don’t know of. We had a great time there – even with the constant harassment, which may not be as bad if we weren’t at the ‘touristy beach’. But I have no desire to return.”
Kit7 also claimed to have spoken to some of the injured during tour bus crash at Loterie Farm.
“They were extremely traumatized; some kids wouldn’t even leave their rooms. As of the following day (Friday) RCCL hadn’t given them anything and basically were acting like it didn’t happen. As if giving them a little something would be some big admission of guilt. We felt very sorry for them, the few we spoke to had neck braces on and one of the girls had her arm in a sling – and a few more in wheelchairs.”
On Newsvine.com, ChrisMcK blogged that terrains such as the island’s “can be punishing on vehicles, especially if they don’t get proper maintenance.
“I hope the cause of the crash can be determined with certainty so that it can be prevented in the future. As an aside, I went to St. Maarten (the Dutch side) once. The poverty is rampant. The hucksters are everywhere. I was propositioned for drugs right in front of the Philipsburg courthouse. Never again.”

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