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Celebrity Cruises Kept a Passenger's Dead Body in a Drinks Cooler For 6 Days and Let It Rot, Lawsuit Alleges The wife of a man who died of a heart attack is suing the cruise line.

By Joshua Zitser

Key Takeaways

  • The wife and family of a man who died of a heart attack on a cruise ship is suing Celebrity Cruises.
  • They allege that Robert Jones' corpse was stored in the ship's walk-in drinks cooler for six days.
  • Cruise ships are required to have working morgues, but the family say Celebrity Equinox's was broken.
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Manfred Segerer/ullstein bild via Getty Images via Business Insider
The Celebrity Equinox cruise ship.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

An elderly man's corpse was left to rot for six days in a drinks cooler onboard a cruise ship after he died on board, according to a civil lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises.

In a complaint filed in Florida federal court on Wednesday, the family of the Robert Jones, who was 78, accuses the cruise line of improperly storing his body after death, resulting in its decomposition.

The Miami New Times was the first publication to report on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Celebrity of concealing the fact that it didn't have a working morgue on board, and discouraging Jones's wife from taking her husband's body to be processed in Puerto Rico.

The body was found by a funeral worker lying in a bag on the cooler floor, the complaint said.

The plaintiffs — his wife, daughters, and grandchildren — are seeking $1 million in compensatory damages.

The lawsuit said that Jones died of a heart attack on board the Celebrity Equinox in the summer of 2022.

His wife, Marilyn Jones, was given two options for what to do with her late husband's body, per the complaint.

She could have his body removed from the ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, or leave it on board until the ship reached Fort Lauderdale, Florida, six days later.

According to the lawsuit, the ship's personnel 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, per the complaint.

It also alleged that Jones was told Puerto Rican authorities might insist on an autopsy, delaying the return of the body.

The other option was to keep the body in the morgue, which is what Jones chose. Cruise ships are legally required to have morgues because deaths onboard are so common. They can store bodies for weeks without decomposition.

However, per the complaint, the morgue was out of action, and Jones's body was instead put in a drinks cooler that wasn't cold enough to refrigerate a body.

The complaint said that a funeral-home worker and a sheriff's deputy from Broward County went to collect the corpse and found it improperly stored.

"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.

The body was not located on a bed or a medical table and was lying in a bag on a palette on the cooler's floor, the complaint said.

The lawsuit claims that the poor storage meant the body could not be made presentable for an open-casket wake and funeral, depriving the family of the funeral they wanted.

The lawsuit accuses Celebrity Cruises of acting "recklessly, willfully, and wantonly, and without care for the Jones family's loved one" by failing to ensure that the morgue was working and the remains were stored carefully.

Celebrity Cruises did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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