Commercial and music producer Shaun LaBelle feels as though he needs a vacation to recuperate from one he just took aboard the cruise ship Celebrity Silhouette after he witnessed the recovery of the bodies of two dockworkers.
The April 2 deaths have been a subject of incessant conversation for LaBelle since he returned from the cruise to St. Kitts. “I was on deck when I heard the captain come on the loudspeaker and say Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, crew only. I had a pretty good idea from working as a musician on a cruise ship in the ’80s that this meant trouble. I immediately saw crew members running to the railing and looking down,” LaBelle said. “I ran to the railing and saw the large wake below with a small blue boat completely overturned.”
LaBelle said he later read that another cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, pulled out before the workers responsible for undocking the ship cleared the berthing area. “As a result the sea currents created by the Independence of the Seas caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize, and the men were apparently sucked below the water and drowned, a horrible death.
“A crew member told me there were two men missing, and I immediately started waiting for the cavalry to come to their rescue. There was no cavalry that day, except for a few boats almost 40 minutes later. I found the feeble rescue attempt shocking and deplorable. There were no emergency alarms or any real sign there was trouble, that I heard. It also appeared the port was sadly unprepared for any real emergency. There were no ambulances on the dock, no sirens or any real plan of action. It seemed like no one had a clue.”
Upset by how few stories there were about the incident — “There was a CNN iReport,” he said — LaBelle tweeted NBC’s Matt Lauer.
A couple of days later, LaBelle hadn’t heard from the “Today” anchor — but he was amused by a test of wills he was having with Royal Caribbean on Facebook. He started posting stories to its page and asking the company to express regret over the deaths and to be transparent. There were seven posts, and seven times he believes these posts were removed (although the last posting may have remained, because people kept making comments on it).
Knowing full well the answer to the following question, on Monday a friend of Labelle sent a tweet to Twitter’s @RoyalCaribPR asking for comment about why LaBelle’s postings were being removed.
After the tweet, Royal Caribbean International sent LaBelle a note via Facebook: “Shaun — Our hearts go out to the families of the crew members for their loss. We were stunned and saddened by the incident. We offered our full assistance during the search for the two private company crew members and continue to offer our assistance as the incident is investigated.”
LaBelle said, “Finally. I had been asking them for an apology in my postings. The worst part was watching them drag two lifeless bodies out of the water. I will never forget that. Awful! I have offered Royal Caribbean my services as an entertainer to do a benefit concert for the families of [the men SKNVibes.com identified as] Rudolph ‘Tone’ Dowell and Maxwell Browne. I have not heard back.”
LaBelle said he was going to ask his attorney to send Royal Caribbean a letter seeking reimbursement. I told him not to do that. “They should offer everybody some form of compensation, not just me,” he said. “We went there to relax, not be traumatized.”