A family is suing a Florida cruise company after employees improperly stored their patriarch’s dead body in a beverage cooler for six days.
Family members of Robert L. Jones, who died on August 15 on board the Celebrity Equinox, filed the lawsuit Wednesday against Celebrity Cruises, Inc.
Jones passed away at age 78 due to a cardiac event, court documents show.
After his death, Jones’ remains decomposed so rapidly inside the cooler that he could not be displayed in an open casket funeral or wake services, “denying his wife of 55 years, children, grandchildren, friends, and community the closure their family and community deserved,” court documents say.
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Between 2000 and 2019, there were 623 reported deaths on cruise ships, according to a 2020 study in the International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health.
The vast majority of deaths were passengers, the study found.
Jones’ remains were found inside a body bag inside a beverage cooler, with an intubation tube still inside his mouth, court documents say.
The man’s body had expanded with gas from decomposing and his skin had turned green, according to the lawsuit.
Jones and his wife Marilyn Jones had been on a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean when he passed away. At that point, crew members told Jones’ wife there was a working morgue on board the ship where her husband’s remains would be stored, the lawsuit says.
But the morgue “was not properly working at the time that Jones’ body was stored,” the lawsuit reads.
When the ship docked back in Ft. Lauderdale six days later, a local funeral home employee and deputy sheriff discovered the man’s body in the beverage cooler, according to court documents.
Inspection of Jones’ body revealed it had never been stored at a temperature appropriate to prevent a dead body from decomposing, the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs say in court documents that if they had known the morgue wasn’t working, they would have had Jones’ body taken off the ship in Puerto Rico, where it would have either been stored in a funeral home or inspected by a medical examiner.
The family argues Celebrity Cruises stripped Jones “of his dignity in the sacred time just after his passing” and the mental image of their loved one’s decomposed body “will surely never leave the memory of the plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit also states there had been 37 deaths on board Celebrity’s cruises since 2001.
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