Show Mobile Navigation
Crime |

10 Gruesome Cruise Ship Deaths

by Angela Hamm
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Cruises promise fun and exotic vacations, shining sands and glorious cities, five-star dining and fun-filled destinations, the lure of the seas and sun, and the ultimate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They usually deliver on those promises, but sometimes, things go horribly awry and a cruise ship becomes a death ship.

10 The Date Rape Drug Death Of Dianne Brimble

Coroner hands down Brimble findings

On September 23, 2002, the P&O Pacific Sky departed Sydney, Australia. Dianne Brimble and her daughter, Tahlia, boarded the ship along with Dianne’s sister, Alma Wood, and Wood’s daughter, Kari Ann.

Later that evening, Dianne left to go to the nightclub. Alma realized that Dianne had not returned to their cabin the following morning. Alma was later called to the ship’s medical center, where she was told that Dianne had passed away. Her naked body had been found on the floor of a cabin that was occupied by four unknown men.

Dianne’s daughter, sister, and niece were forced to endure an additional two days on the ship before they could disembark and fly back home to Australia. The case created a firestorm when it was discovered that Dianne had been drugged and had died after a group of men gave Brimble a drug known as the date rape drug, putting it into her drink at the club.

The media coverage and the criminal trials of the four men involved have resulted in sterner measures and security, including drug-sniffing dogs during cruise ship boardings.

9 The Bloody Ecstasy

Police Say Crushed Cruise Worker Had Disabled Elevator Safety

Jose Sandoval Opazo, 66, of Liguria, Italy, died aboard the Carnival Ecstasy on December 27, 2015, as a result of an apparent accident while he was working in an elevator shaft. Opazo, an electrician on the 2,056-passenger cruise ship, was reportedly crushed to death. Witnesses reported that there was blood running down the face of the elevator doors and that they could hear the blood dripping. A rather graphic video made the rounds on the Internet as well.

8 A Volatile And Star-Crossed Couple Both Die At Sea

Video 0:18 CCTV footage of Paul Rossington and Kristen Schroder on the Carnival Spirit cru

Newly engaged couple Paul Rossington, 30, and Kristen Schroder, 27, both died while traveling aboard the Carnival Spirit cruise ship in May 2013. They were seen and heard arguing at dinner and were also caught on security cameras arguing in the ship’s casino shortly before they took their argument to their cabin.

Security cameras show Ms. Schroder climbing over the balcony railing of her cabin and clinging to the outside of it before slipping from the fifth-level balcony. She tumbled downward, and her body struck level three and then a lifeboat before her battered body fell into the ocean.

Mr. Rossington, who was naked at the time, was seen by security cameras executing what is deemed a security dive into the Tasman Sea as he went into the ocean to try to save his fiancee. Neither body was found despite an intensive air and sea search of over 1,700 square kilometers (500 nmi2), but there is little chance that either survived for long.

7 The Murder-Suicide Couple

Salem couple found dead on cruise ship

Darla J. Mellinger-Banner, 56, and John C. Banner, 56, of Salem, a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio, were known to Salem police after a December 21, 2014, incident where Darla Banner was injured in a knife accident. Salem police were called to a local hospital by hospital staff because Darla Banner had arrived for treatment of a chest wound caused by a knife.

When police arrived at the hospital, they were told a story that seemed odd, but the explanation was suitable. The couple were newlyweds who had just arrived home from their honeymoon cruise. Police were told that the man went to a closet to unpack from their honeymoon cruise and found an old military dagger in the closet.

John Banner tripped on a rug as he went into the bedroom to show his wife the relic. He fell toward his wife, who was sitting on the bed. The knife plunged into her chest, causing a non-life-threatening injury. Police ruled the incident a “freak accident.”

The couple then boarded the ship Ryndam at Tampa, Florida, on Sunday, March 29, 2015, for a 14-day Caribbean cruise to celebrate the Easter holiday. Ryndam then arrived at Key West, Florida, on Monday, March 30, before two days at sea.

The cruise ship sailed toward Puerto Rico for a noon arrival on April 2. The FBI was notified by the ship’s officers about a murder-suicide after Darla Banner was found dead in her cabin from an alleged stab wound. John Banner was also deceased.

6 The Wife-Killing Cruise


Shirley McGill, 55, from Winnetka, California, was on a five-night cruise to Mexico aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation. The cruise was supposed to be a celebration of her 55th birthday. It was while the McGills were on their cruise that Shirley’s husband, Robert McGill, beat and strangled her to death in their cruise ship cabin during a heated argument. Robert McGill confessed to the murder and received a life sentence for the crime.

5 The Newlywed Death Cruise


On February 6, 1988, Karen Waltz, 26, married chiropractor Dr. Scott Robin Roston, 36. They were on the last day of their seven-day honeymoon cruise to Mexico, the day before Valentine’s Day, aboard Sundance Cruises’ (Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) Stardancer.

Scott Roston initially claimed that Karen had gone overboard after a hard gust of wind hit her as they were jogging around the ship’s jogging track. But after reports surfaced that there were no wind gusts at the time that Karen went overboard and that the good doctor had been angry with his wife at dinner for eating sweets and for not knowing which utensil to use, a full investigation was launched.

Roston then tried to blame his bride’s death on Israeli assassins. Roston was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, a sentence that was later reduced to 33 years. He will be out and facing down Israeli assassins again in 2017.

4 Jumping Ship Or Just A Floor?


Walter Bouknight, 26, of Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, died aboard the Carnival Fantasy in 2012 while attempting to jump between floors. The ship was docked in Nassau at the time and was staying overnight there due to the investigation.

A witness who did not want to be identified said of the tragedy, “They stopped the show for a few minutes. Everybody wondered what was going on. Something came over the PA system paging someone to come to desk for an emergency. After a few minutes, they finished the show. When we came out of the theater, you could see blood on the floor on some marble steps near a desk in the lobby. It was easy to see what had happened.”

The ship’s next stop to Freeport was canceled, but the ship made its next sailing.

3 He Survived A Hellish Fire Only To Drown In A Hot Tub

Let The Fire Burn Documentary (Exclusive Clip)

Birdie Africa was found dead at the bottom of a hot tub aboard the Carnival Dream in 2013. He had a very high blood alcohol level and had apparently slid beneath the water and drowned while a crowd looked on in fascination.

The Port Canaveral, Florida, police report from that day weaves a similar story: “Two passengers saw the body but didn’t react initially, thinking it was a “painting,” and called their friends over to take a look. A doctor who refused to be identified also stated that he saw passengers and crew looking on and had to tell them to pull the body out.”

Even worse, the doctor alleged that the nurse obtained a defibrillator and was hesitant to use it. She allegedly asked a colleague if it was safe to use on a wet body—basic knowledge when using that device.

To compound the tragedy, Birdie Africa was one of only two survivors of Philadelphia’s attack on the MOVE organization on May 13, 1985.

2 Lover’s Spat Or Gay Slur Protest?

BSO: Man Intentionally Jumped Off Cruise Ship Balcony

In November 2015, Bernardo Garcia Teixeira, 31, was presumed dead after he fell into the water while aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Oasis of the Seas.

Fellow passengers watched in horror as Garcia Teixeira held on for more than a minute as staff members tried to rescue him. Garcia Teixeira eventually fell into the ocean.

Michael Winkleman, an attorney for Garcia Teixeira’s family, said the incident was preceded by homophobic comments by the ship’s crew toward Garcia Teixeira and Erik Elbaz. The two men had been married for about a year, but the ship’s crew insists that the security team was called due to a very loud domestic argument inside the cabin shared by the couple.

The homicide detectives viewed footage shot from Garcia Teixeira’s cell phone and declared that he could be heard threatening to jump overboard.

1 And Certainly Not The Last Or Least

Coast Guard searching for man who fell off ship

David Wayne Mossman, 46, from Cypress, Texas, jumped overboard on Saturday, March 6, 2016, on the last night of a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Navigator of the Seas.

The company issued a statement on the matter Monday morning saying in part: “On Friday, March 4, 2016, at approximately 10:55 PM, a guest onboard Navigator of the Seas reported that they had witnessed another guest going overboard from their stateroom balcony.”

The company said that they reviewed camera footage and saw 46-year-old David Mossman go overboard from one of the decks somewhere off the coast of Key Largo, prompting a search.

Angela Hamm is a fiction writer and freelancer with a love for odd facts and strange coffee flavorings.

fact checked by Jamie Frater