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
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.
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