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Fire Aboard Cruise Ship Kills 1 Passenger, Injures 11

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Fire Aboard Cruise Ship Kills 1 Passenger, Injures 11

Postby Anthony » Sat Mar 25, 2006 5:01 am

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ‚ÄĒ For the last 21 years, the cruise industry found comfort in the fact that accidents aboard ships at sea had not resulted in the death of a passenger.

That record ended Thursday with a fatal fire on a Princess Cruises ship that killed one man and left 11 passengers suffering smoke inhalation.

The fire started about 3:10 a.m. in a passenger area as the 109,000-ton Star Princess was en route from Grand Cayman Island to Montego Bay, Jamaica. At least 100 cabins were damaged before the fire was extinguished.

Jamaican police identified the dead man as Richard Liffidge, 75, of Georgia. In a statement, Princess Cruises said heart failure was the cause of death.

"This is the first time such a tragedy has occurred in the history of our company, and we are devastated," the Princess statement said.

The ship was carrying 2,690 passengers who were roused from bed and asked to report to their muster stations.

Zach Bramlage, 19, of Columbus, Ohio, was having a late-night meal when word spread of a fire.

"Some people just ran in where we were eating and told us the ship is on fire, and we got our life vests real quick and headed downstairs," Bramlage said. "I was pretty scared initially, but the captain came over the [intercom] and told us everything was going to be all right."

By midmorning Thursday, the fire was fully extinguished, a Princess spokesperson said, but residual smoke remained in areas that suffered damage.

The seven-night cruise that originated in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday has been cut short, and the ship's next cruise canceled. Passengers will be flown home from Jamaica over the next two days with full refunds, a spokesman said.

Relatives of the ship's passengers can call (800) 693-7222 for more information, the cruise line said.

"There will be lessons learned, and we will apply those lessons," said Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines. The fire prevention systems worked as intended to stop the spread of the fire, he said.

The Coast Guard was sending three officers to help find the cause of the fire, and a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said it was also sending an investigator. The main investigation falls to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which is based in London, because the ship is registered in Bermuda.

The last time a cruise ship accident caused a passenger's death was in August 1984, when the Scandinavian Sun caught fire as it entered the Port of Miami, killing Florida resident Colleen Skantar.

Since then, ships have been grounded, have caught fire and have collided with other vessels in accidents, injuring passengers and killing crew members but not resulting in the death of any passengers until Thursday.
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