Articles Posted in Fire On Board Cruise Ship

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The Amazon River has already encountered cruise ship accidents this year, but a recent accident onboard the Aqua Amazon cruise ship is proving to be more tragic.  For reasons unknown at this time, an explosion occurred on the cruise ship, and a fire broke out.  The fire caused the boat to sink and left many crew members injured, and a few of these crew members have lost their lives.

At this time, there are five crew members still missing from the ship.  The number of missing crew members was originally seven, but two bodies were later recovered.  A total of eight crew members have been hospitalized, and while five of these crew members are stable and receiving necessary medical attention, three of these crew members are being treated in the intensive care unit.

The timing of this cruise ship could have been worse had passengers been onboard the Aqua Amazon at the time the fire broke out.  While it is horrific that these crew members suffered the consequences of a cruise ship fire, hundreds if not thousands of others could have been injured or killed if the ship was currently holding passengers. Continue reading →

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Recently, a fire broke out on a Royal Caribbean ship as it pulled into port in Falmouth, Jamaica.  The company reports that the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship fire was extinguished and passengers were assembled at the ship’s assembly stations.  Royal Caribbean says all systems on the ship are functioning and it will continue on its trip, with the next stop in Grand Cayman.

While the company seems to be downplaying the fire, passengers have reported considerable smoke.  One passenger told news outlets that she noticed dark smoke and debris outside the window.  Crews ordered her and other passengers to put on life-preservers.  She was informed that one of the engines had caught fire, but did note that crew members kept passengers calm.  Further, one crew member suffered first degree burns in the fire that took one and a half hours to extinguish.  A video has emerged of the smoking ship that seems to depict a considerable fire.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation and fortunately no serious injuries resulted from the flames.

Cruise Line Fires

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In 2013, an engine room fire broke out on the Carnival Triumph.  The cruise ship was set to sail from Galveston, Texas to Cozumel, but instead found itself adrift 150 miles off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.  The fire caused no injuries, but left the ship without propulsion, air conditioning, or running water.  For days, the passengers of the ship were forced to endure horrific conditions.  Temperatures swelled on the ship and toilets overflowed.  The voyage later became dubbed the “poop cruise from hell.”  The stench of sewage on the ship was overwhelming and disgusting.

Our Miami cruise ship injury lawyers discovered when passengers were finally towed in and allowed off the hellish voyage, they were offered a mere $500 in compensation and another Carnival cruise.  Offended and traumatized by the voyage gone wrong, several passengers filed lawsuits against Carnival.  One lawsuit filed on behalf of a Texas woman reported that the woman was forced to endure horrendous odors and such filth that she feared contracting a serious illness.

Another lawsuit filed on behalf of a Texas passenger in Miami alleged that the passenger experienced severe dehydration and bruising due to aggressive food lines.  The passenger was so ill upon return to shore that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room.

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Over the decades, cruise ships have increased tremendously in size, weight, and passenger capacity. In 1985, the biggest cruise ship was the 46,000 ton Carnival Holiday. In early 2000’s, the largest ship, the Queen Mary 2, was three times as large. Today, two 225,000 ton ships rule the high seas. Cruise ships continue to get bigger and more popular, but some safety experts are expressing concerns over this continual expansion of ship size.

Our Miami cruise ship accident lawyers find that cruise ships operate with little oversight or enforcement and, according to James Hall, a safety management consultant and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, (NTSB) the industry has been very fortunate up until now.

Recent events have highlighted the potential perils of mammoth cruise ships. Thirty two people were killed when the Costa Concordia, owned by the Carnival Corporation, capsized off the coast of Italy. The accident revealed several flaws in emergency procedures and lapses in safety. More recently, a fire aboard the Carnival Triumph, left passengers stranded without power for four days until the ship was finally towed to shore. Yet another blaze on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas forced the ship to dock in the Bahamas. The stern was left blackened by smoke.
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Cruise Ship Blog Pic.jpgThe Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorneys at Greenberg Stone and Urbano, frequently posts articles about cruise ship safety and incidents, as our firm has attorneys specializing in cruise ship accidents in the Miami area. Regrettably, this all too familiar news story has surfaced yet again–another safety incident aboard a cruise ship has occurred. This time, it involved Royal Caribbean. On May 27, 2013, a fire broke out on the third deck of the Grandeur of the Seas while it was off the coast of Florida on its way to Cococay, Bahamas. Reports indicate that the fire was discovered at approximately 2:50 a.m. Passengers were directed to various muster stations after the fire broke out. The Grandeur of the Seas requested assistance from the United States Coast Guard. Although declining further comment, the United States Coast Guard did indicate that the fire was a “Class A” fire, which involves solid materials rather than flammable liquids.

According to various reports, Royal Caribbean staff secured the area on the ship affected by the fire and extinguished it using onboard equipment. Passengers were allowed to return to their rooms later in the morning. Photographs of the extent of the damage reflect substantial smoke damage, though the full extent of the damage is not clear in the photographs. What is clear from the photographs is that the smoke damage affected several decks of the ship at the stern area.

Several passengers were treated for medical issues, and passengers report other passengers passing out and vomiting. However, no injuries have been reported. The Grandeur of the Seas was able to sail to Freeport, Bahamas, and docked approximately seven hours after the fire broke out. The remainder of the trip had to be cancelled due to the damage to the ship. All of the 2,224 passengers were flown back from the Bahamas to Baltimore, Maryland, where the ship departed. Royal Caribbean issued a statement that all passengers would receive a full refund and a certificate for a future cruise trip.

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According to Seattletimes.com, incidents such as fires, loss of power and others on board cruise ships are common place and often are not reported. In fact, many incidents are not reported at all because although many cruise lines operate from ports in the United States, their ships are registered in other countries, putting them outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Moreover, while these cruise lines are obligated to report crimes committed on board to the F.B.I., they only report incidents like fires, power loss or evacuations to the Coast Guard in the ports they operate from. In other words, there is no comprehensive database of all significant incidents that occur on board a cruise ship or a cruise line.

Yet, for the last couple of decades one person has tried to keep a somewhat comprehensive database about most of the incidents relevant to safety that take place on a cruise ship. Ross A. Klein, a Canadian/American Professor of Sociology at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada has been a cruise enthusiast all his life, spending more than 300 hours at sea between 1992 and 2002. At some point he noted that there was a difference between his observations and the statements made by the cruise industry about environmental and labor issues, so he decided to start compiling data on all kind of cruise related issues.

Now Professor Klein is considered an authority on cruise ship safety and regularly testifies before Congress about the cruise line industry. His website, CruiseJunkie.com, is perhaps the most comprehensive database to date of fires, sunken ships, collisions and other events at sea. Professor Klein gathers the information for his website from news reports and other sources such as crew members and passengers.

However, there are some limits to Professor Klein’s database: most of the information he receives is from events that happen at cruises in North America and Europe because his sources are English speakers and English-language news organizations. This makes it unlikely that he will receive much information from events happening in Asia, Africa and South America.

Typical Events Reported

Among the events typically reported by Professor Klein are:

  • Adrift at Sea: Ships left adrift at sea by loss of power are common incidents. Professor Klein has logged dozens such events over the last two decades. Fortunately, most of these situations last only a few hours, thou there have been cases including the recent power loss of the “Triumph” from Carnival Cruise Lines that have gone on for days. Last February a fire in the engine room shut down the 14-year-old ship’s power, propulsion, sewage and air-conditioning systems, leaving over 4,000 passengers adrift for days in the Gulf of Mexico with little food and raw sewage overflowing into the ship’s walls and carpets…
  • Evacuations: Although not frequent (according to Professor Klein’s numbers they happen approximately three or four times a year) when they do happen, they are carried out in an safe way and rarely end with the passengers actually abandoning the ship.
  • Fires on Board: Unfortunately, fires on board cruise ships are not infrequent. Professor Klein has recorded approximately 79 fires on cruises between 1990 and 2011. Until 2006 there were about three to four fires reported every year. From 2006 on there has been an increase in the number of reported fires to seven or eight a year, not only because the incidents themselves have increased (which they have because the industry itself has grown,) but due to social media, which makes it easier to report cases.
  • Non-Functioning Toilets: The problem is more common than usually thought because cruise ships use a vacuum system that gets easily clogged when someone (especially in the upper decks) flushes down the toilet anything other than human waste or toilet paper. When this happens, all the pipes from the top to the bottom (including some cabins across) get clogged and toilets overflow.
  • Running Aground: Fortunately, cruise ships run aground more often than they sink. Again, according to statistics gathered by Professor Klein, 99 cruise ships have run aground in the last 32 years. Of course, ships can run aground and sink too, as it happened to the “Costa Concordia” on February of 2012.
  • Sinking: Sixteen ships have sunk in the last 32 years. Of course, the disaster of the “Costa Concordia” is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Yet, the worst sinking incident during that period was that of the “Estonia”, a cruise ship that sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994, killing more than 800 people.

Dangers to Cruise Ship Passengers

There are many different activities for passengers to enjoy while on a cruise. Unfortunately, some of these activities can be dangerous, especially when using faulty equipment. When planning how to spend their time at the various ports of call, passengers often decide to book excursions with local excursion companies instead of booking them through the ship. While the excursions booked with the ship are usually more expensive, they are also usually safer, primarily because the cruise line is supposed to make sure that their operators maintain higher safety standards, since the cruise line itself may end up facing liability for any injury suffered by a passenger that booked the excursion thru the ship.

Following are some of the activities enjoyed by passengers while on land:

  1. Surfing
  2. Scuba diving or snorkeling
  3. Parasailing
  4. Boating
  5. Jet skiing
  6. Hiking
  7. ZIP lining
  8. Excursions on bicycles, on motorbikes or on 4X4 vehicles like Jeeps, etc.

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Costa Cruises is back in the news: another one of it’s liners, the Costa Allegra, is adrift off the Seychelles Islands after a fire in the generator room left more than a thousand people in the darkness, according to Herald-Tribune.com.

No Injuries or Deaths Reported

Thankfully, no injuries or deaths were reported after the fire was extinguished by the ship’s own special firefighting units. Yet, the ship is adrift in an area were attacks by Somali pirates have been reported, although pirates have never hijacked a cruise ship before. Nevertheless, according to a Seychelles government spokesperson, the ship has armed guards on board ready to defend it should pirates attack. Having armed guards on board is, the spokesperson said, standard practice for cruise ships these days.

Fires Onboard Cruise Ships Not Unusual

Very few accidents on board a ship are as dangerous (or potentially deadly) as a fire. Unfortunately these fires are not uncommon. Following are just a few of the most recent fires on board cruise ships:

  1. On November 17, 2010, the “Pearl of Scandinavia” caught fire off the coast of Norway.
  2. On November 8, 2010, the “Carnival Splendor” caught fire off the coast of Mexico, leaving 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members stranded.
  3. On May 31, 2010, Royal Caribbean’s “Independence of the Seas” caught fire in Gibraltar with a result of a dozen injured passengers.
  4. On March 23, 2006, the “Star Princess” catches fire en route to Jamaica with 3,800 people on board. As a result of this fire12 people were injured and 1 died.
  5. On July 20, 1998, the “Carnival Ecstasy” caught fire after leaving the Port of Miami with 2557 passengers and 920 crew aboard. As a result 60 people were injured.

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