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One dead in Caribbean cruise ship fire

March 24, 2006

One passenger died and 11 were hurt when fire broke out on the passenger decks of a Princess Cruises ship on Thursday as the vessel carried more than 3,800 passengers and crew from the Cayman Islands to Jamaica.

The blaze aboard the 290 metre Star Princess forced passengers to grab life jackets and scramble to muster stations in the early-morning darkness. About 100 cabins were affected by flames and smoke and the cruise line cancelled the rest of the voyage.

"After the muster station, we did cabin-to-cabin searches," said Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for Santa Clarita, California-based Princess, which is owned by Carnival Corp.

"We did a full passenger and crew check to make sure everyone was accounted for."

A male passenger died "following a cardiac arrest," the company said in a statement. Two passengers suffered significant smoke inhalation and nine had minor complications from breathing smoke.

The fire broke out at 3.10am as the 4-year-old luxury liner, carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew, sailed from Grand Cayman Island to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

"We do not know how the fire started," Benson said. "It broke out in the passenger accommodation. We don't know exactly where it started."

The ship docked at Montego Bay later in the morning. The cruise line ended the voyage and was arranging to fly passengers home over the next two days. Those in the damaged cabins were taken to hotels on shore while the rest remained aboard the ship, the company said.

"The ship is safe and is fully operational and continues to provide passengers with full services," Princess said in a statement.

The Star Princess was last inspected by the Coast Guard on October 25, 2005, in San Juan and "had no discrepancies", Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge said.

The ship is registered in the British colony of Bermuda. Judge said the United Kingdom Marine Accident Investigation Branch will be the main investigating agency, joined by US maritime and fire safety investigators.

Princess said passengers would receive a full refund of their cruise and air fare, plus out-of-pocket expenses and credits on future voyages. The cruise line cancelled the ship's next voyage, due to leave Fort Lauderdale on March 26, and also offered those passengers full refunds and future credits.

Carnival lost millions of dollars in revenue in 1998 after fire erupted on its ship Ecstasy as it sailed out of Miami. The blaze injured 60 passengers and knocked the vessel out of service for nearly two months.

Carnival's Celebration was adrift for several hours in January 2000 when fire broke out in an auxiliary generator as the ship sailed northwest of Jamaica.

The 109,000-tonne Star Princess cost more than $US430 million ($A602.33 million) to build. The ship sailed from Fort Lauderdale on March 19 on a weeklong Caribbean cruise.

Carnival Corp. on Thursday reported a 19 per cent drop in first-quarter earnings. Its stock fell about 5 per cent.

St. Petersburg couple survives massive cruise fire

Tri-State Woman Survives Deadly Cruise Ship Fire

Local Family Returns Home After Terrifying Ship Fire

Local Teen Aboard Cruise Ship During Fire

Princess Confirms Cruise Ship Fire Started on a Balcony


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