Crew comment on death onboard

Oct 15, 2013 by Guest Writer

In an effort to help others, we asked captains to share some of the basics of how they have learned to handle a death onboard.


Keep the body as cool as possible until it can be off-loaded. We would either use a bathtub with ice or the walk-in refrigerator.


Remove body to a part of the vessel that is not visited often by passengers or crew. Give passengers something important to do to stop panic. Be aware of the feelings and needs of the loved ones still onboard, and what they need to deal with the grief.


Do not die in the Bahamas. You are “unconscious” and being evacuated by air or by boat.


Contact management so they can inform related interested parties. Store body in body bag in garbage fridge after washing and redressing, if necessary. Proceed to nearest port that will make it easy to repatriate the body.


I always ask crew to list any medical issues upon hiring, and also obtain next-of-kin contact information immediately upon hiring.


1. Secure the body. 2. Contact shoreside medical and authorities. 3. Document particulars of the death, including date and time. Usually, flag state has forms for this. 4. Refrigerate or freeze the body, if possible, until it can be delivered to shore facility. 5. Document in the official log book. These are the basics and details vary between flag states and by what country you happen to be in.


If it was a reasonable cause of death, preserve body and scene. Then document, document, document.


First is to contact MedAir to have the body taken to a proper facility. Until then, have body placed in a stateroom with the A/C low. Contact the owners, broker, next of kin. Make arrangements to get to the best/closest marina to make arrangements.


Document everything in writing and photos. Have everyone also write statements.


Time is of the essence to preserve the body and the authorities are contacted. They will give protocol according to location and requirements according to laws governing the region.


Document. Witness statements. Photograph. Wrap in plastic and ice down in tub or walk-in refrigerator if you have one. Secure personal effects.

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