Lawsuit blames Carnival staff for woman's death on cruise ship

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau May 7, 2012, 5:33pm

Carnival Conquest

GALVESTON - The family of a local woman who died on a Carnival Cruise ship last year alleges the employees allowed her to become intoxicated and then failed to respond properly when she fell and sustained a serious injury in her cabin bathroom.

Ila Parish, individually, as personal representative of the estate of Angel Holcomb and as next friend of minors Kelvin Holcomb and Samuel Holcomb, filed a lawsuit against Carnival Corp., doing business as Carnival Cruise Lines, on April 27 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas pursuant to the Death on the High Seas Act.

Angel Holcomb's relatives claim she died from cardiac arrest after losing too much blood when she cut an artery in her arm in a fall.

According to the original petition, the Hitchcock resident boarded the Carnival Conquest in Galveston on May 1, 2011, for an eight day/seven night cruise to the Caribbean. She was accompanied by family members including her mother, step-father, aunt, sister and fiance.

The plaintiffs allege that on the evening of May 2, 2011, the Carnival Conquest was in international waters heading for Montego Bay, Jamaica, where it was due to arrive on the morning of May 4.

Holcomb and a few other family members went to the ship's casino, where part of her group sat down at a poker table, with Holcomb "mainly watching" because she did not know how to play, the suit states.

"Plaintiffs allege that an unknown traveler who was winning bought a round of alcoholic drinks for everyone at the table, including Angel Holcomb," the suit states. "Plaintiffs allege that an alcoholic beverage was brought to Angel Holcomb by a uniformed waiter who was in the course and scope of his employment with Defendant."

According to the complaint, Holcomb was not a heavy drinker and drank slowly. The plaintiffs allege the winning player continued to order rounds of drinks and the waiter continued to bring the drinks until Holcomb had four alcoholic beverages sitting in front of her at one time.

Then the pit boss informed Holcomb that she could not have that many drinks on the poker table at the same time, and he took away three beverages. The suit alleges the pit boss said he would give her another drink as soon as she finished one.

When her mother expressed concern, the suit states the pit boss and the poker dealer told her to let Holcomb "have some fun."

She started to feel sick and decided to return to her cabin at about midnight, however, she became lost and disoriented in her "severely intoxicated" state, according to the suit.

Her fiance found her and escorted her back to her cabin, and one of the relatives said she witnessed Holcomb "stumbling and eventually fall in the hallway because she was intoxicated and wearing heels."

According to the suit, Holcomb was put in her bed but later went to the bathroom to drink some water when she fell and dropped the water glass, which shattered on the floor.

Shards from the glass cut a huge gash in her left arm, prompting her to call out for help, the suit says. Her fiance came to her and saw blood "spraying everywhere" from a large cut on Holcomb's arm.

Carnival sent two crewmembers to medically assist Holcomb, but the plaintiffs claim the workers were not properly trained to administer help.

Holcomb's family claims that it took more than 30 minutes from the time a nurse finally arrived for Holcomb to be transported to the ship's infirmary, "or more than an hour after the initial emergency call," the suit states.

"After waiting several minutes for the stretcher to arrive, Plaintiffs allege that instead of bringing a stretcher, the employees "brought what appeared to be a canoe used for water rescues."

When the canoe would not fit in the elevator, the suit states "the Defendant's employees decided to carry Holcomb down seven flights of stairs to the ship infirmary."

Plaintiffs allege that about 15 minutes after arriving at the infirmary Holcomb went into cardiac arrest due to the extreme blood loss and was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

The Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy on Holcomb a week later and determined a shard of broken glass penetrated her left forearm and severed her left ulnar artery.

The toxicology tests showed that Holcomb had a blood alcohol level of .155 mg/DL, almost two times the legal limit for driving.

The plaintiffs accuse Carnival of negligence by failing to properly train and supervise its crew in serving alcohol to passengers; failing to properly monitor Holcomb's alcohol consumption while "fostering a party atmosphere"; and failing to have proper procedures, proper equipment and properly trained personnel in place for a timely response to emergencies.

Attorney Joseph M. Gourrier of Houston is representing Holcomb's family.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the case.

Case No. 3:12CV132

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