Man’s body ‘stored in drinks cooler' after he died during luxury cruise

Man’s body ‘stored in drinks cooler' after he died during luxury cruise
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The body of a man who died during a luxury cruise was left to decompose in a drinks cooler, his devastated family has alleged.

Robert Lewis Jones, 79, died of a heart attack onboard the Celebrity Equinox as it sailed through the Caribbean in August 2022.

His wife of more than five decades, Marilyn June Jones, and their children have now sued the ship’s operator Celebrity Cruises, claiming staff stored his corpse for nearly a week inside a walk-in cooler normally used for beverages instead of a properly chilled morgue as promised.

This left the body bloated and green, forcing the family to scrap their plans for an open-coffin funeral “which was a long-standing family custom,” the federal lawsuit, filed in Florida, states.

Marilyn, her two daughters and three grandchildren are seeking $1 million in damages, according to the Associated Press.

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The widow, who was on the trip alone with her husband at the time of his sudden death, was allegedly given two options by crew members on how to handle Robert’s body.

It could be taken off when the ship next docked, in Puerto Rico, or be placed in the ship’s morgue until their return to Fort Lauderdale six days later.

The grieving 78-year-old was told that if she chose Puerto Rico, she would need to arrange transportation for the body and herself back to Florida. She was also warned that island authorities would perhaps require an autopsy, which could further delay their return home.

She picked the morgue, but that’s not where the body was stored, the lawsuit states.

Robert Jones received a number of awards for his dedication to the people of Northwest Florida, his obituary statesiStock/Sims Funeral Home

When the ship arrived back in Fort Lauderdale, a funeral home employee and local sheriff’s deputy were sent to the ship to retrieve the body only to discover that the morgue was out of service.

Instead, they apparently found the body in a bag, on a palette in the cooler, which was significantly warmer than the near-freezing temperatures needed to properly store a body.

Robert’s remains were in “advanced stages of decomposition,” according to the suit.

Celebrity Cruises' actions caused the family “extreme trauma", as they were forced to visualise the body of the beloved husband, father and grandfather "horrifically decomposed" and reminded that he was "callously and casually left in a beverage cooler, stripping him of his dignity,” the suit reads.

Marilyn’s lawyers are seeking a trial by jury.

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