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Cruise Ship Mishap Injures Dozens

Jul 19, 2006 | AP

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.

"Tables, glasses, lounge chairs went flying," passenger Tom Daus, 32 of New York told The Associated Press in a cell phone interview from the ship. "I was just holding on for dear life onto the bannister."

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.

John Hart, 49, of Ontario, Calif., said he had never been so scared on a cruise ship and might never board one again.

"I thought it was going over," he said.

All 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew members were accounted for, the Coast Guard said. But at least 14 people suffered serious injuries, including a child and an adult with injuries considered critical. About 70 others had lesser injuries, said Cape Canaveral Fire Rescue Capt. Jim Watson.

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

Stan Payne, CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority, said the ship would remain there for several days. The Coast Guard 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," company spokeswoman Julie 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."

On deck, "The water came gushing out of the pool like a mini tsunami," Daus said. "People who were in the pool were shoved out."

John Joyce, on his honeymoon with his wife, Rebecca, said he had gone downstairs to see about booking another cruise when the ship began to tilt.

"I watched the grand piano come tumbling by me," he told NBC's "Today" show. "I just assumed my wife was already in the ocean."

Tables were piled on top of one man in the ship's casino and his head was bleeding, said Steve Tibus, 54, of Edgewater, N.J. He said his own wife had to be treated for injuries to her head and legs after furniture hit her.

"You just got scared, and you knew something was wrong, and you just hung on," he said.

The Crown Princess was on a nine-day Western Caribbean cruise and had just left Port Canaveral on Tuesday afternoon. It had been scheduled to return to New York on Thursday.

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