When millionaire Steve Fossett’s plane dispeared over the Nevada mountain range in 2007, the adventurer had already been subjected to two rescue operations emergency calls thousands of miles away.
And that raised a thorny question: once the adventurer’s search was over, who should pay the bill?
In recent days, the gigantic search for a submersible vehicle lost during a descent into the North Atlantic to explore the wreckage of the Titanic has refocused attention on that question. And as rescuers and the public become obsessed first with saving and then with mourning those on board, an awkward conversation has reignited.
“Five people just lost their lives and starting to talk about insurance and all the rescue efforts and the cost may seem heartless, but the thing is, after all, there are costssaid Arun Upneja, dean of Boston University’s School of Hospitality Management and a tourism researcher.
“There are a lot of people who are going to say, ‘Why should society spend money on the rescue effort if (those people) they are rich enough like to be able to… engage in these risky activities?”
That question draws attention as very wealthy travelers in search of special adventures they spend big to scale peaks, navigate the seas, and blast off into space.
How much did the US Coast Guard spend?
US coast guards declined on Friday to provide an estimate of the cost of his efforts to locate the Titan, the submersible that researchers say imploded not far from the world’s most famous shipwreck.
The five people missing included a billionaire British businessman and a father and son from one of Pakistan’s best-known families. The operator charged the passengers $250,000 each for participating in the trip.
“We cannot attribute a monetary value to search and rescue cases, as the Coast Guard does notor associate the cost to saving a life“, declared the agency.
Although the cost of the mission to the Coast Guard is likely amount to millions of dollarsfederal law generally prohibits you from collecting reimbursements related to any search or rescue services, said Stephen Koerting, a US attorney specializing in maritime law who lives in Maine.
But that doesn’t resolve the larger question of whether wealthy travelers or corporations should be held accountable to the public and governments for exposing themselves to that risk.
“It’s one of the hardest questions to answer,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, noting that the attention paid to government-funded bailouts dates back to the hot-air balloon exploits of British billionaire Richard Branson in the 1990s.
“The question should never be public spending alone or perhs even primarily public spending, but it is inevitable to think about how the limited resources of rescuers can be used,” Sepp said.
The demand for these resources became parent in 1998, when Fossett’s attempt to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon ended with a plunge into the ocean 800 kilometers from Australia. The Royal Australian Air Force sent a C-130 Hercules transport plane to find him. A French military plane launched a life raft with 15 people before it was picked up by a yacht.
The criticssuggested that Fossett pay the costs. Fossett rejected the idea.
At the end of that same year, the US Coast Guard they spent more than $130,000 to rescue Fossett and Branson after his hot air balloon plunged into the sea off Hawaii. Branson said he would pay if the Coast Guard asked him to, but the body did not.
Nine years later, after Fossett’s plane dispeared over Nevada during what should have been a short flight, the state National Guard launched a search that lasted months and in which the remains of several other accidents peared occurred decades ago, without finding the millionaire.
The state declared that the mission had cost taxpayers $685,998, of which 200,000 were covered by a private contribution. But when the government of Governor Jim Gibbons announced that it would request reimbursement of the restFossett’s widow objectednoting that he had spent a million dollars on his own private search.
“We believe that the search conducted by the State of Nevada is a government expense in execution of a government action,” an attorney wrote on behalf of the Fossett estate.
Risk and adventure for all
risky adventurism It is not exclusive to the rich.
The pandemic caused an increase in visits to places such as national parks, which increased the popularity of climbing, hiking and other outdoor activities. Meanwhile, the spread of cell phones and services has made many feel that if something goes wrong, help is just a phone call away.
In some places there are laws known as “stupid motorist laws”which force drivers to pay the costs of emergency response when they ignore barricades on flooded roads.
Arizona has such a law, and Volusia County, Florida, where Daytona is located, enacted a similar law this week. The idea of a similar “stupid hiker law” is also often debated in Arizona due to the number of unsuspecting people who must be rescued due to sweltering heat.
Most of the officials and volunteers leading the search oppose charging for help, said Butch Farabee, a former ranger who has participated in hundreds of rescue operations in the Grand Canyon and other national parks and has written several books on the search. issue.
Searchers worry that if they charge to rescue someone, “they don’t ask for help as soon as they should and when they do, it’s too lateFarabee said.
The trade-off is that some might take that vital help for granted. Farabee recalls that in the 1980s she received a call from a lawyer who underestimated the effort required to walk out of the Grand Canyon. The man called for a rescue helicopter, mentioning that I had an important meeting the next day. The ranger refused the request.
But that is not an option when the lives of the adventurers, some of them quite wealthy, are at extreme risk.
climb everest it can cost tens of thousands of dollars in permits and issuance fees. a handful of people die or dispear every year as they scale the mountain, prompting an emergency response from local authorities.
Although the Nepalese government requires that mountaineers have rescue insurance the scope of salvage tasks can vary greatly, and Upneja estimates that some can cost “several tens of thousands of dollars.”
Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
In high sea
On the high seas, wealthy sailors looking to break speed and distance records they have also had to be rescued repeatedly when their travels ended badly.
When the yacht of Tony Bullimore, a British millionaire who was going around the world, csized 2,300 kilometers off the Australian coast in 1997, it seemed that he would have no salvation. Clinging to the inside of the hull, he ran out of fresh water and almost no air.
When a rescue ship arrived, desperately swam to the surface.
“I started looking back on my life and thought, ‘Well, I’ve had a good life, I’ve done most of the things I wanted to do,'” Bullimore said afterwards. If I had to choose words to describe it, it would be a miracle, a true miracle.” .
Australian authorities, whose forces rescued a French sailor the same week, were more measured in their assessment.
“We have an international legal obligation”said Defense Minister Ian McLachlan. “We have a moral obligation, obviously, to go and rescue people, whether it’s in bushfires, cyclones or at sea.”
However, less was said about the Australian government’s request to restrict racing routes, in the hope of keeping sailors in areas where they might need fewer rescues.
Translation: Elisa Carnelli