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Company blames cruise ship mishap on bridge officer's error

Jul 25, 2006 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel The sudden lurch of the Crown Princess cruise ship last week that sent 94 passengers to the hospital was caused by a bridge officer's mistake, Princess Cruises said on Tuesday.

Los Angeles-based Princess didn't specify the mistake, or add much detail, saying the incident is still under investigation by regulators.

But in an open letter to passengers posted on the line's Web site, Princess President Alan Buckelew said human error was the cause of the incident. "The appropriate personnel changes have been made," the letter said.

Princess declined to spell out what those changes were. It said the error was not made by the ship's captain, who continues to command the $500 million vessel, but by another officer who is no longer on active duty.

Several officers besides the captain of a cruise ship are typically qualified to steer, including the staff captain and first officer.

On July 18, the 3,100-passenger Crown Princess suddenly listed 15 degrees to the side for about 30 seconds as it left Port Canaveral on its way back to New York. The tilt sent objects cascading across the deck. Princess treated 240 passengers onboard.

In his letter, Buckelew said all but one of the hospitalized passengers have been released.

Separately, a New York law firm said Tuesday it had filed claims against the parent company of Princess, Miami-based Carnival Corp.

In a statement, Parker & Waichman said it represents five passengers from New Jersey and Long Island, New York, who suffered broken bones and lacerations from being thrown to the deck. The firm didn't say where or when the claims were filed, and efforts to reach an attorney designated by the firm as a spokesman were unsuccessful.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard and authorities in Bermuda where Crown Princess was flagged are investigating what happened on the ship. Early reports, attributed to crew, blamed a malfunction in the steering possibly from an autopilot failure.

Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the NTSB, said the agency hasn't released any findings about the cause of the Crown Princess accident and had no comment on Buckelew's letter.

Crown Princess was delivered in June from the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy and was on its fourth cruise when the problem occurred.

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