Coast Guard: First Word Of Ship Roll Came From Passenger
PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. --
The first warning to authorities that the Crown Princess cruise ship had rolled to its side at sea came not from the captain, but from a passenger on a cell phone, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.
Twenty people were seriously hurt in Tuesday's incident off Port Canaveral when the ship rolled 15 degrees to the right but all were expected to make a full recovery, Princess Cruises said.
Coast Guard Commander James McLaughlin said it was unusual that first word of a problem came from a passenger and they wanted to hear from the vessel itself. He said Coast Guard officials immediately contacted the ship after the alarming phone call.
at the time of the incident, Princess spokeswoman Julie Benson said Wednesday. Benson said she didn't know who called the Coast Guard first, but said it's standard procedure for the captain to contact authorities.
The captain submitted to drug and alcohol tests after the incident, but results were not yet available. Investigators said there was no indication he was under the influence.
"He's one of our most senior captains. He's been with the company for about 35 years. He has an exemplary record," Benson said. "We deeply regret this incident and are doing everything we can to make our passengers as comfortable as possible under these difficult circumstances."
She said all passengers on the nine-day Western Caribbean cruise ending in New York would receive a full refund and reimbursement for additional expenses. Princess is one of 12 brands operated by Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator.
The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating Wednesday. No cause had been determined, but the Coast Guard and passengers said ship officials informed them there was a problem with the steering equipment.
"We'll look at weather, we'll look at stability issues and we'll look at mechanical issues," McLaughlin said. He said the investigation could take days.
Seas were calm and there was no indication that a rogue wave or foul play contributed to the roll.
About 240 passengers were treated onboard for minor injuries, according to the cruise line. Ninety-eight people were transported to hospitals. A child and one adult were flown to hospitals with critical wounds, the Coast Guard said.
All but three passengers and two crew members were treated and released, Benson said. Conditions of the remaining five patients were not immediately available, but they were expected to make a full recovery, she said.
The cruise line reported that all 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew members were accounted for, but the Coast Guard was still verifying that information Wednesday.
"There is a possibility when you take a roll like that that somebody could have gone overboard," McLaughlin said.
Former NTSB chairman James Hall said Wednesday he hopes the incident will prompt federal officials to toughen cruise industry regulations.
"This was a serious roll, there were injuries and obviously the people that were on the ship were terrified," Hall said.
As passengers boarded buses for the airport Wednesday, many recounted the terrifying scene. Some sobbed and clutched loved ones while others shared pictures of the aftermath.
"Another 20 degrees and I would have been in the water," said Alfred Caproni, of North Adams, Mass., who was on his balcony on the ninth deck. "All the water from the pools was coming right over the edge. It was like Niagara Falls. There were dozens of people with bleeding noses."
Gerald Brock, a surgeon from Ontario, Canada, said he assisted ship doctors in the triage room treating "dozens of passengers" with injuries ranging from fractures and dislocated joints to elderly people suffering shortness of breath and chest pains.
Several passengers said Tuesday night's movie on the ship was supposed to be "Titanic."
More than half the passengers had disembarked Wednesday. Others would remain aboard overnight until travel arrangements were made.
A similar incident occurred in February on a ship also operated by Princess. The 2,600-passenger Grand Princess left the Port of Galveston but soon made an emergency turnaround because a passenger suffered a heart attack. The ship tipped sharply on its side, injuring 10 crew members and 27 passengers.
The cause of that list was determined to be human error, Benson said.