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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Seaman Says Runaway Wheelchair Led to Firing

(CN) - A South Carolina man claims in court that while working as a crew member for Norwegian Cruise Line, he was run over by a runaway wheelchair, sustaining serious injuries.

William Vick, a resident of Horry County, S.C., was employed as a seaman aboard the Norwegian Line's M/S Pride of America.

In a complaint filed in Charleston Federal Court, Vick says that on Sept. 11, 2014, while the ship was docked in Hawaii, he was standing on the ship's gangway greeting guests as they returned from a Luau.

Although Norwegian requires all ship's officers to report to the gangway as guests return from an outing, on this particular day, Vick says, he was the sole officer who did so and the only assistance he had was that of a ship's housekeeper.

At the time, because the tide was low, the gangway was at a steep incline, the complaint says.

"The housekeeper was wheeling a laarge man in his wheelchair up the ramp when he lost his grip and the wheelchair began to roll down the gangway and towards all of the other passengers climbing the ramp," Vick says.

Believing several passengers were in danger, Vick says he "sacrificed his body by lunging towards the out-of-control chair," the complaint says.

He managed to stop the wheelchair before it ran into the crowd on the gangway but suffered a severe injury to his back.

Vick says he reported the injury to a supervisor, and was assured he would receive medical treatment at Norwegian's expense at the very next port of call.

Instead, he says, he was fired two days later on the pretextual grounds that he had a female employee in his cabin.

Vick maintains nothing of a sexual nature occurred between him and the woman, and that the only reason she was in his cabin was discuss another crew member who was talking about quitting.

VIcks says he challenged his firing pointing out the cruise line's employee handbook contain no rule forbidding male and female crew members from being alone in a room together, and further, that the handbook specifically acknowledges that consensual romantic relationships between crew members may occur.

Norwegian did not overturn his termination. As a result, Vick says, despite his injury, he was forced to leave the ship in Hawaii, and make his own way home to South Carolina.

Vick seeks compensatory, general and punitive damages on grounds of negligence, unseaworthiness, and wrongful termination.

He is represented by Charles George of Goldfinch Winslow LLC in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

A representative is Norwegian Cruise Line could not immediately be reached for comment.

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