CRUISE NIGHTMARE: Freestone County family recovering physically and financially from onshore accident in Mexico
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Summer is peak season for cruise trips, but one family from Freestone County ended up in an emergency room in Mexico during their summer Carnival cruise, which was only the beginning of their nightmare.
The Daniels family spent over $50,000 in cash to pay for medical care in a Cozumel hospital and a private flight to the U.S. required by the Mexican government.
This all started when Michael and Navlet Daniels got into a motor scooter accident during one of the onshore excursions as a part of a Carnival cruise.
Michael said the scooter was worn and in bad condition which was a reason he and his wife got in the accident.
However, Carnival says they are not responsible for any passenger’s safety when they leave the ship, including excursions.
“Guests engage in all such activities off the ship at their own risk,” according to Carnival’s additional terms and conditions for shore excursions on their website.
The Daniels were taken to an emergency room in Cozumel, and their son, Michael Daniels Jr., and daughter, Fruncheska Jenkins, eventually showed up as soon as they could.
Jenkins said she noticed that her father’s arm was injured and her mother was lying on her back, fading in and out of consciousness, not receiving any care or medical attention from doctors. As a nurse herself, Jenkins took charge and asked for a screening and tests.
However, the doctors demanded thousands of dollars in cash before proceeding with the screening and tests.
While she thought that was unusual, Michael Jr. got the cash and gave it to the doctors.
They said one doctor manipulated with Michael’s injured arm without pain medications.
But, soon, they were told they had to have a passport to stay with their parents. Jenkins did not have a passport with her on the trip, and Michael Jr.’s passports were on the ship. The ship was already waiting on them for about 30 minutes when Jenkins and Michael Jr. had to make a quick decision.
“He [a Carnival emergency manager] was like, ‘I’m responsible for 8,000 other people that pay money, so we are not waiting for you to gather your documents for your family,’ Michael Jr. said a Carnival cruise emergency manager said to him. “I was shocked.”
Michael Jr. was able to get his documents to be able to stay with his family, but Jenkins said she had to leave her parents behind.
After being forced to leave her injured parents in a foreign country, she said the trip back to the ship only made things worse.
“All of the people that have a balcony view from their room, they can see me coming down the long pier to get to the boat,” Jenkins said. “I hear the people yelling at me, ‘Hurry up! Run faster! You’re only 40 minutes late! At that point, I was very tearful because I just left my family, I don’t even really know what’s going to happen from there.”
She said the Carnival team shut the door immediately after she stepped on board and went back to work. She did say that some employees walked her to her room and said to let them know if she needed anything.
Meanwhile, Michael Jr. was with his parents. He said that the doctors at the hospital wanted to do surgery on Navlet, but he wanted to fly them back to America so that doctors there could do the surgery.
“Once the boat left, the hospital director told me, ‘Well, the only way to get back now is to get some money, and maybe they will fly you back across, you’re going to have to talk to the government,” Michael Jr. said.
He thought this meant an airline ticket, but he said the director told him that he would have to pay the Mexican government to rent one of their private planes because of Michael and Navlet’s conditions.
The hospital director, who had a friend in the government, told Michael Jr. that the flight would be $34,000.
“At this point, I’m desperate,” he said.
Michael Jr. got the price down to $28,000 and had to pay it in cash. In order for the hospital to release his parents, he had to pay an additional $11,000 to the hospital after paying several thousands of dollars for other procedures and care.
But, Michael Jr. was not in the clear yet. He said he had to pay $600 more because they had temporary passports. He also had to pay for other documents and stamps for money.
“I felt like it was all about, ‘let’s just see how much money we can get out of this family before we fly them back,” he said.
Once he and his parents finally got to the plane after more hurdles, they had to sit in the heat inside the plane for almost an hour until the government gave the pilot permission, but the government told him his documents were incorrect.
“Look, I’m out of money,” Michael Jr. said. “We’re just going to have to sit on this plan until they stamp whatever documents they need to fix.”
After waiting 30 minutes, the plane took off. It did not have air conditioning and was over 100 degrees.
“I look at the pilot, and he just was sweat dripping down his arms,” he said. “I look at my mom, and she is hot.”
Her oxygen levels were going down, but Michael Jr. said the medics acted like they did not know what to do.
“I asked them, ‘How long have you been a doctor?” Michael said. “He said he has been learning from hands-on experience. He had no schooling.”
There were not educated doctors on the flight, but, eventually, the Daniels finally made it to America.
Michael Jr. said, when they got to the hospital, the injuries were worse than they thought.
Now, the Daniels are at Jenkins’ house recovering, but they are unsure how they will recover financially.
The Daniels have recommendations for anyone who plans on taking an international cruise.
Michael recommended to check any equipment you use during excursions in foreign countries because he said it is sometimes not the greatest quality.
Navlet recommended always traveling internationally with your passport and important documents you would need in an emergency.
Jenkins hopes to spread awareness of her family’s experience because, while it is rare, she never imagined this happening during her family cruise vacation.
“You don’t plan on getting into a bad accident or anything like that when you go on vacation, but, on the off chance that it does happen, you’re in this other country,” Jenkins said. “I mean, you’re stuck in an ER, and receive the type of care that they received, it honestly just sucks to see something so inhumane.”
Jenkins started a gofundme for her parents and brother to help them recover financially.
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