A crew member who was hospitalized for days after two ill-fated cruise ships with coronavirus patients were finally allowed to dock in Florida has died, officials said.
Broward County Medical Examiner Craig Mallak on Thursday confirmed the death of Wiwit Widarto, 50, of Indonesia. Widarto had tested positive for COVID-19, raising the Zaandam ship’s coronavirus-related death toll to four.
The man died Wednesday, six days after the Zaandam and a sister ship docked in the Fort Lauderdale port after spending two weeks at sea rejected by South American ports, said Holland America Line spokesman Erik Elvejord. He had been taken to a Florida hospital the same day the ship docked.
Four elderly passengers had already died before the cruise ships arrived, and the medical examiner said earlier this week that three of those men tested positive for COVID-19. The fourth man’s death was caused by a viral infection. Mallak said he tested negative for the new virus but had been dead for 12 days before he was examined.
About 1,200 passengers disembarked the Zaandam and sister ship the Rotterdam, which was sent to replenish the first with supplies and crew members who were falling ill. The cruise company and federal and Florida officials negotiated for days before allowing disembarkation.
The cruise line says 29 passengers who were kept aboard because they were mildly ill were scheduled to finally travel home Thursday on charter flights, a week after arriving in Florida.
The Zaandam departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7, a day before the U.S. State Department advised to avoid cruise travel and a week before most cruise lines halted their sailings.
There were 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on its sister ship Rotterdam. The Rotterdam was sent last week to take in some of the passengers and provide assistance to the Zaandam since it was denied permission to dock at ports in South America.