Celebrity Cruise Line Gets Sued for Leaving Rotting Corpse in Ship’s Drink Cooler

Robert L. Jones, 78, died of a heart attack on August 15, 2022, while enjoying a cruise aboard the Celebrity cruise line ship “Equinox.”

Now Jones’ family is suing the cruise line after crew members improperly stored Jones’ corpse in a beverage cooler for six days, letting it decompose so that an open casket funeral is impossible.

The suit alleges that Jones’ remains decomposed so rapidly inside the cooler that he could not be displayed in an open casket funeral or wake services, “denying his wife of 55 years, children, grandchildren, friends, and community the closure their family and community deserved,” court documents say.

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Celebrity Cruise Ship

The family alleges celebrity employees “recklessly, negligently without care, willfully, and wantonly” failed to care for the man’s remains on board the ship and stripped Jones “of his dignity in the sacred time just after his passing” and the mental image of their loved one’s decomposed body “will surely never leave the memory of the plaintiffs.”

The family is seeking $1 million in damages and a trial by jury.

According to the suit, Jones’ remains were found inside a body bag, on top of a pallet, inside a beverage cooler, with an intubation tube still inside his mouth. His body had expanded with gas from decomposition, according to the lawsuit.

When Jones passed away, crew members told his wife, Marilyn Jones, she had two options for her late husband’s body, per the suit. She could have his body removed from the ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, or leave it on board until the vessel reached Fort Lauderdale, Florida, six days later.

The suit alleges that the ship’s crew gave Jones a list of reasons not to take the Puerto Rico option.

They said that it would require her to stay in San Juan and arrange the transport of herself and the body to the mainland US herself, and Puerto Rican authorities might insist on an autopsy, delaying the return of the body.

The second option was to keep the body in the ship’s mortuary until its return to Ft. Lauderdale. Mrs. Jones chose option two as she believed her husband’s body would be stored appropriately.

The complaint said that when the ship docked back in ft Lauderdale, six days after Jones’s death, a funeral home worker and a sheriff’s deputy from Broward County went to collect the corpse and found it improperly stored.

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“The cooler in which Mr. Jones’ body was found by the funeral employee had drinks placed outside of the cooler and was not at a temperature which was sufficient nor proper for storing a dead body to prevent decomposition,” the complaint said.

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