Homicide Squad Investigates Handling of Ruby Princess

file photo
file photo

Published Apr 5, 2020 4:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Eleven people have now died in Australia after Ruby Princess passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19, and the deaths have become the subject of a criminal investigation by the NSW Police homicide squad.

The vessel was one of four cruise ships that had been granted an exemption to an Australia-wide 30-day ban on foreign ships. One concern is that Carnival Australia may allegedly have played down the risk posed by sick passengers onboard, but local authorities have been widely criticized for allowing passengers to disembark when the vessel returned from New Zealand despite over 150 cases of illness logged onboard. More than 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases have now been linked back to the cruise.

After being tasked by the NSW Premier to conduct initial investigations, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced on Sunday that a criminal investigation is now underway. The investigation is being led by the Homicide Squad’s Detective Chief Inspector Jason Dickinson, who is experienced in complex and protracted investigations, with oversight from the NSW Coroner.

It is expected the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the Ruby Princess’ captain and doctors, the crew and passengers as well as staff from various Commonwealth and NSW Government agencies.

“I’ve examined a number of phone calls between NSW Ambulance, Port Authority of NSW and NSW Police that stemmed from the initial 17-minute Triple Zero call from the ship to NSW Ambulance on 18 March,” Fuller said. “There appears to have been an exceptional amount of effort put in by Ports to determine the true nature of the conditions on board – and even delayed the vessels arrival until they were provided additional information.

“After reviewing the information at hand, the only way I can determine whether our national biosecurity laws or our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”

Investigators will examine the actions of everyone involved – whether from the cruise company or government agencies. “We are mindful that some of the key information we need will also come from passengers, so I urge those who were on-board to reach out to us – please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.”

Aspen Medical is continuing to assess the health of the crew on board the Ruby Princess and has developed a plan in conjunction with authorities to manage their welfare until they can depart Australian waters. Up to 200 of the 1040 crew members currently on board the vessel are displaying symptoms, while 16 crew members are confirmed to have COVID-19.

The Celebrity Solstice, Voyager of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas have now all left NSW.