Passengers Killed During Cruise Ship Excursion

November 20, 2012
(9:54 a.m. EST) -- A couple vacationing with friends on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas were killed when their sand buggy hit a guardrail and crashed while on a third-party excursion in Cozumel, Mexico.

Forty-one year old Jim Melillo and his 39-year old girlfriend, Susan Borges, were participating in the excursion with a group of about 28 friends November 17. A friend was driving their sand buggy at the time of the accident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The friend and his wife also were hurt but not seriously.

In a prepared statement sent to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean confirmed the deaths and extended its condolences to the victims' families and friends. "The guests, who were sailing on Liberty of the Seas, died while ashore in Cozumel, Mexico. The guests had been participating in a sand buggy shore excursion that was not sponsored by the company."

The group of friends had contracted with a third-party provider to rent sand buggies for a six-hour tour that included lunch and swimming on a private beach. According to the Orlando Sentinel article, members of the group said many of the buggies seemed "ill-kept" and had no seat belts. However, Mexican authorities investigated the incident and found no fault with the company.

Melillo and Borges were part of a group of some 40 friends on Liberty of the Seas' four-night sailing from Port Everglades, which departed November 15. The ship returned to Florida on November 19.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor