Widow’s Lawsuit Claims Cruise Staff Improperly Stored Husband’s Body in Drink Cooler to Rot

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According to a recent lawsuit, a Florida woman accuses the staff on Celebrity Cruises of mishandling the dead body of her husband, which led to severe premature decomposition.

A 79-year-old passenger died two days after Celebrity Equinox departed from Fort Lauderdale on an eight-day cruise to the Caribbean. Robert Jones, 79, died from a heart attack while aboard the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship in 2022.

The lawsuit alleges that cruise staff kept the body of Jones in a walk-in beverage cooler. The lawsuit claims that cruise staff had told Jones’ wife that her 55-year-old husband would be kept in the ship’s mortuary for six days until the ship docked at Fort Lauderdale.

Marilyn Jones claims that the cruise staff discouraged her from taking her late husband’s corpse off the ship after it docked at San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to NBC News, the suit alleges that cruise staff warned Marilyn Jones there was a 50/50 chance the coroner would seize the body and perform an autopsy on it before releasing the body to a funeral house. She was also told that she’d need to arrange transportation to the United States in the event she left the ship.

The lawsuit states that “this was particularly distressing for Ms. Jones who was elderly and traveling alone with her spouse.”

According to the federal lawsuit, Jones’ body wasn’t in the ship’s mortuary but “lay in a plastic bag on a pallet of the floor.”

The lawsuit claims that the drink cooler wasn’t cold enough to preserve Jones’ dead body, and it caused him physical injury.

The lawsuit claims that Jones’ body was “in advanced stages of decomposition,” due to the conditions inside the beverage cooler.

According to the Associated Press, the family could not have an open coffin funeral, which was a family tradition and what they wanted.

The lawsuit claims that by allowing Mr. Jones to decompose on the ship, his body was in such a condition that his family could not have an open casket service or wake, they denied his wife, of 55 years, his children, his grandchildren, his friends and the community closure, which was part of their family’s tradition.

Celebrity Equinox docked at Fort Lauderdale almost a week after Jones’s death from a cardiac arrest. A funeral home employee and a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy were said to have recovered the body.

The lawsuit claims that the family experienced “extreme trauma” by seeing Mr. Jones’ decomposing body and knowing that their husband and dad were left callously in a beverage refrigerator, robbing him of his dignity.

Marilyn Jones, two of her daughters, and three of her grandchildren are seeking $1 million in damages.

Celebrity Cruises stated, “We decline to comment due to the sensitive nature of the allegations and respect for the family.”