Death in Honduras Adds to Growing List of Cruise Zip-Line Accidents

Jul 9, 2018

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An Israeli man on his honeymoon in Honduras was killed Thursday when he collided with his wife on a treetop zip-line. The wife was flown to Fort Lauderdale for treatment for serious injuries.

The accident, which took place on Roatan, a popular island for shore excursions, is only the latest in a string of incidents in recent years involving cruise-based zip-lining.

Zip lines are a quickly growing and often unregulated segment of the tourism industry that is spawning more and more horror stories about badly designed lines, incompetent owners, failed safety checks and plain bad luck that have broken tourists’ bones and blinded, crippled and killed them. The zip-line operators, meanwhile, may quickly get back to business with nary a slap on the wrist. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the number of zip-line injuries skyrocketed from hundreds in the 1990s to over 3,600 by 2012 just in the US. An Ohio State University study found that 12% of zip-line injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization, making it as dangerous or more dangerous than rock climbing.

And as zip lines have become popular around the globe, they’ve become almost de rigueur on cruise lines’ menus of shore excursions, an easy way to appeal to the adventure-tourism market while still making it accessible, at least in theory, to normally sedentary passengers. But those cruise passengers aren’t immune to the safety issues plaguing the zip-line industry as a whole.

Roatan alone saw a Norwegian Spirit passenger plunge to her death 10 years ago, followed three years ago by a woman on a Royal Caribbean ship who was seriously injured zip-lining. The Israeli couple in last week’s accident, identified as Egael Tishman, 24, and Shif Fanken, 27, were passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship Allure of the Seas. The zip-line adventure was part of a cruise package.

It’s not just an issue in Honduras. A Celebrity cruise to Dominica in 2014 left a zip-lining woman with a broken ankle when her legs slammed into a tree. In Puerto Rico in 2015, a 56-year-old woman from New Mexico on a Carnival vacation died when she fell 20 feet from a zip line. Outside Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in 2016, a California woman on a Norwegian cruise fell 500 feet from a zip line into the tree canopy, surviving but leaving her in a leg brace (the zip-line experience was one the woman’s family arranged on their own, not through the cruise line). Meanwhile, online forums for cruise-ship aficionados are rife with stories of zip-line incidents that never make the news, like the man who was left dangling 200 feet in the air in St. Kitts.

The Royal Caribbean website describes the three-hour, $89 Extreme Caribe Zip Line Tour on Roatan as an opportunity to “[s]woop above exotic plants, giant African Palms and beautiful landscapes” with cables as long as 1,950 feet and as high as 300 feet.”

Tishman’s body is to be flown back to Israel to be buried, according to the Israeli foreign ministry. According a Honduran report, the official cause of death is believed to be a brain hemorrhage. Honduran authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.

Featured image of zipline in Nicaragua, not connected to the incidents described in the story, by Epics/Getty Images 

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