CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A Charlotte family says they were front and center for a gruesome death that has captivated the nation and it’s an image they’ll not soon forget.

Sara Robinson and her family were on the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship where an electrician was killed while working on an elevator during the final leg of a three-day cruise.

Miami-Dade police Det. Marjorie Eloi says 66-year-old Jose Sandoval Opazo of Liguria, Italy, died Sunday as a result of an apparent accident. In a news release, she said he was an electrician on the 2,056-passenger cruise ship.

Robinson and her family were on the ship and came upon the scene shortly after the accident.


She says the family was headed to late dining when they heard a person scream.

“We looked to our left, over at the elevator and there was blood all over the carpeting and down the elevator sides,” she said. “There was one other family and the woman had her hands over her mouth.”

Robinson says the maître d’ to the restaurant began to usher them into the restaurant.

“You could actually hear the dripping of the blood coming down, which made us all sick to our stomach,” she said.

The family went into dinner and kept asking crew members what happened, but didn’t get any answers.

Robinson says she went to the restroom about 30 minutes later and the area had been roped off.

“There was a sign and all it said was that the elevators weren’t working,” she said.

Robinson then went to other floors on the ship to see if other elevators were blocked off. Within another 30 minutes, she said the entire portion of the ship was blocked off.

“It was terrible. They wouldn’t tell us what happened,” she said. “Over the loud speaker they said ‘we need the emergency medical team to come immediately.’ But still, no guests really knew what was going on except the three or four families that saw what was coming out of the elevator and the noise and everything that happened.”

Robinson says her family has been on more than 20 Carnival cruises, but they were ready for this one to end.

“I was excited to get off that boat on Monday and I know my whole family was,” she said.

Robinson says she called Carnival on Monday and heard back from the company’s guest services, but wasn’t happy with their response.

“I don’t know that I want to go on another Carnival cruise. To see all of that, and to not be even treated any differently. Seeing how traumatic it was. I mean, we saw a lot of blood to the point that we knew that someone on the cruise could not fix what had just happened.”

“I knew it wasn’t minor,” she recalled. “I was thinking maybe he lost an arm or a leg. I had a hunch that it was a crew member, but I did not know that it would be as big as a death.”

Police and the cruise line are investigating the cause and have released no further details. In a statement, the Miami-based cruise line says the accident occurred on an elevator.

The company says a full investigation is underway.

Robinson and her family have another cruise booked for May, but she’s not sure they will be getting on the boat.