GALVESTON, Texas (CN) – A family blames Carnival Cruise Lines for their mother’s death, claiming in court that it took the pleasure ship’s crew more than an hour to get her to the ship’s infirmary after she fell on broken glass and severed an artery.
The two minor children and the parents of the late Angel Holcomb sued Carnival Corporation dba Carnival Cruise Lines in Federal Court, alleging negligence in her death aboard the Carnival Conquest, on May 3, 2011.
The complaint’s description of Holcomb’s long slow death from blood loss is a tragic comedy of errors in which crew members tried unsuccessfully to carry the bleeding woman in a wheelchair, a stretcher that never arrived, a canoe, and then had to carry her bodily.
Holcomb boarded the ship on May 1, with her mother, stepfather, aunt, sister and fiancé, for a weeklong cruise to the Caribbean.
“(O)n 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 May 4, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.,” according to the complaint.
The family says they ate dinner together on the ship, then split up “with Angel Holcomb, her mother, Ila Parish, stepfather Colaie Parish, and aunt, Patty Mouton, going to the casino that was located on the ship.”
“Plaintiffs allege that this smaller group sat down at a poker table in the casino, with Angel Holcomb mainly watching because she did not know how to play poker.
“Plaintiffs allege that an unknown traveler who was winning bought a round of alcoholic drinks for everyone at the table, including Angel Holcomb.”
Holcomb’s family says the unknown traveler kept ordering drinks until Angel had four drinks sitting in front of her on the poker table.
They say the casino pit boss told Holcomb she couldn’t have that many drinks on the table at once and took three away from her, telling her he would give her another drink as soon as she finished one.
“Holcomb’s mother, Ila Parish, expressed concern that that was too many alcoholic drinks for her daughter to consume at one time. However, the pit boss and the poker dealer, another of defendant’s employees, both stated that Holcomb could handle them and that Parish should let her have some fun,” according to the complaint.
The pit boss handed Holcomb the drinks one after another until she drank all four, her family says.
“Angel Holcomb began to feel sick, so she got up from the poker table to go back to her cabin at approximately 12:00 a.m. on May 3, 2011,” the complaint states. “In spite of the fact that Angel Holcomb had been served a large number of alcoholic beverages by defendant’s employees, plaintiffs allege that they made no attempt to make sure she was not impaired.
“Plaintiffs allege that upon leaving the casino, Angel Holcomb was severely intoxicated and became disoriented.”
The family says Holcomb called her sister, Roneisha Parish, and asked her to come get her because she was lost and drunk.
“While she was on the telephone, Holcomb’s fiancé, Kenneth Ray, walked up and began taking her back to their cabin,” the complaint states.
When Holcomb reached her cabin, Roneisha Parish gave her a glass of water and went to her own cabin next door.
Holcomb went to bed, then got up a short time later and went to the bathroom to get some water.
“Holcomb fell due to being heavily intoxicated and dropped the glass of water which shattered on the floor,” according to the complaint.
Her fiancé awoke to the sound of Holcomb falling and heard her calling for help.
“(W)hen Ray rolled Holcomb over, blood began spraying everywhere from a large cut in her arm. Plaintiffs allege that Ray ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around Holcomb’s arm,” the complaint states. “Next, Ray called the ship’s emergency number told the dispatch that his fiancée had cut her arm and was bleeding heavily, and that he needed immediate medical assistance.
“In spite of the request for immediate medical assistance, plaintiffs allege that the defendants sent two crewmembers who were not medically trained in response to Ray’s call.”
The family says that none of the first responders tried to perform any first aid on Holcomb, and when they saw the severity of her injury they called for medical assistance to come to her cabin. At about 2:25 a.m., the family says, dispatch called a nurse to Holcomb’s cabin.
“At 2:35 a.m., approximately 25 minutes after the first emergency call, a woman who identified herself as a nurse showed up, removed the towels from Holcomb’s arm, packed the wound with gauze, wrapped it with an ace bandage and put smelling salts under Holcomb’s nose although she was still conscious and aware of what was happening,” the complaint states.
“Plaintiffs allege that the nurse told crewmembers to get a wheelchair to transport Holcomb to the ship infirmary, but when the wheelchair arrived, Holcomb fell out of it, so the nurse asked for a stretcher.
“While waiting on the stretcher, Holcomb’s mother, plaintiff Ila Parish arrived on the scene and witnessed the horror of her daughter bleeding to death.
“After waiting several minutes for the stretcher to arrive, plaintiffs allege that instead of bringing a stretcher, the defendant’s employees brought what appeared to be a canoe used for water rescues.
“However, the defendant’s employees discovered that the canoe was too wide and would not fit through the hallway because of a firewall. Plaintiffs allege that Angel Holcomb had to be physically carried out of the room and put in the canoe.
“Plaintiffs allege that four of defendant’s employees carried the canoe with Angel Holcomb to the elevator and after waiting for an elevator to arrive, discovered the canoe was too long and would not allow the elevator doors to close.
“Plaintiffs allege that the defendant’s employees decided to carry Angel Holcomb down seven flights of stairs to the ship infirmary.
“Plaintiffs allege that it took approximately 30 minutes after the nurse arrived for Angel Holcomb to be transported to the ship infirmary, or more than an hour after the original emergency call. Angel Holcomb was conscious the entire time and in tremendous pain.
“Plaintiffs allege that approximately 15 minutes after arriving in the ship infirmary, Angel Holcomb went into cardiac arrest due to extreme blood loss and was pronounced dead less than an hour later.”
The family says an autopsy conducted when the ship returned to Galveston determined that a glass shard had penetrated her left arm and severed her ulnar artery.
Toxicology tests found that Holcomb’s blood alcohol content was “over two times the legal limit for driving,” the family says.
They seek damage for negligence under the Death on the High Seas Act, and for losses they suffered due to her death, “including the loss of earning capacity, support, inheritance, services, nurture, guidance, instruction, and funeral expenses.”
They are represented by Houston attorney Joseph Gourrier.