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Cruise ship investigation is planned

Jul 19, 2006 | AP
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In an instant, passengers aboard The Crown Princess cruise ship went from sunbathing to clutching whatever they could as the massive ship rolled heavily to its side, throwing everything not nailed down against the deck and walls.

"Another 20 degrees and I would have been in the water," said Alfred Caproni, of North Adams, Mass., who was on his balcony on the ninth deck. "All the water from the pools was coming right over the edge. It was like Niagara Falls."

The Crown Princess was 11 1/2 miles southeast of Port Canaveral en route to New York late Tuesday afternoon when its crew reported problems with the steering equipment and the 113,000-ton ship listed hard to one side, Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge said.

It slowly came back up, leaving a scene of terrified passengers scattered across its decks, halls and casino, then headed for the port.

Gerald Brock, a surgeon from Ontario, Canada, said Wednesday he assisted ship doctors in the triage room treating "dozens of passengers" with injuries ranging from fractures and dislocated joints to elderly people suffering shortness of breath and chest pains.

All 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew members were accounted for, the Coast Guard said. Ninety-four people were taken to hospitals, and at least 20 had serious injuries, including a child and an adult with injuries considered critical, cruise line and port officials said.

Three passengers and two crew members remained hospitalized Wednesday, Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson said. Details about their injuries were not released, but Benson said they were expected to fully recover, she said.

Some passengers left the ship late Tuesday after it reached Port Canaveral, and buses shuttled others to an airport Wednesday morning.

Payne said the ship would remain at the port for several days. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board planned to inspect it Wednesday, and Princess Cruises one of 12 brands operated by Miami-based Carnival Corp. said it was investigating what caused the severe list. It wasn't immediately clear how far over the ship tipped.

"We deeply regret this incident and are doing everything we can to make our passengers as comfortable as possible under these difficult circumstances," Benson said. She said all passengers would receive a full refund and reimbursement for additional expenses.

Some passengers said the ship was already tilting Tuesday morning, even before the sudden roll to the side.

Martha Lynn George said she at first thought something was wrong with her bed when she awoke but then realized the whole ship was slightly tilted. She and her husband were in the buffet area Tuesday afternoon when the ship suddenly rolled. If her husband hadn't grabbed her, she said, she would have gone flying through a glass window.

"We were seeing the sky, the ship tilted that much," George told ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "I really thought this was it."

Caproni said he held the balcony tightly as the ship brought him nearly face to face with the ocean.

"I fell to the deck. I had to crawl to get back in my room," he said. "It was the most scary thing. We thought we were gone. We thought it was over."

The Crown Princess had been christened by Martha Stewart last month before it embarked on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean from its home terminal in Brooklyn. It was on a nine-day Western Caribbean cruise, had stopped at Port Canaveral and was scheduled to return to New York on Thursday.
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