Child Dies Under Crew Care

27 March 2009 By Kelly Sanford, By Louisa Beckett

Tragedy struck on March 25 aboard a private yacht anchored in Discovery Bay off Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. An 18-month-old boy accidentally was strangled by a window blind cord, according to reports on the Sky News website and in China’s business newspaper The Standard.

The toddler’s parents reportedly had gone ashore to the Discovery Bay Marina Club, leaving the boy, whose name was given as “Roche,” in the care of a 42-year-old woman named Oliveros. Apparently, she left him playing in the main cabin so she could prepare lunch in the galley. After realizing it had been some time since she had last heard him, she went to investigate. She discovered that the toddler had somehow managed to entangle himself in the curtain cord, which was wrapped around his neck, rendering him unconscious. The boy was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital ashore. Despite valiant efforts made by the doctors to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The cause of death later was given as suffocation.

While Oliveros – who reportedly was interviewed but not accused of any wrongdoing by the Lantau police – is described in news reports only as “a helper,” it is possible she was a member of the yacht’s crew.

“Who’s watching the children?” is a subject that we have dealt with before on – see “Yachting with Tots: The Perils of Charters with Children”, posted on January 21. When there are children aboard a yacht – whether they belong to charter guests or to the owners themselves – what are the ramifications when crew are expected to keep up with their regular duties and still supervise the kids?

There is a mantra among yacht captains: “The fastest way to lose your job is to ever utter the words, ‘That’s not my job.’” As even the very wealthy begin to tighten the purse strings, we are seeing a resurgence in “hyphen jobs:” titles like cook-mate, deck-stew and so forth. But is it reasonable when assigning multiple duties to the crew to ask them to assume responsibility for a child as well?

What do you think? Please share your opinions below.