CRUISE INDUSTRY

U.S. Coast Guard: Carnival Triumph fire sparked by fuel leak

 

hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

The engine room blaze that disabled Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph for five days in the Gulf of Mexico was sparked because of a leak in a fuel line, according to a U.S. Coast Guard investigator.

Lt. Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield, marine casualty investigation team leader for the agency, said in a conference call with reporters that the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board will likely wrap up work on the ship by the end of the week.

But the investigation is expected to last about six months, she said.

The Bahamas Maritime Authority is leading the inquiry because the ship is Bahamian flagged, but the Coast Guard and NTSB are handling the U.S.-interest investigative efforts, Hatfield said.

“We are looking at the cause of the fire and why the ship was disabled for so long and we are also looking at the crew response to the fire,” she said.

The 893-foot ship left Galveston on Feb. 7 for what was supposed to be a four-night cruise. But on the morning of Feb. 10, as the ship sailed off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, fire broke out and disabled the ship’s propulsion systems.

None of the 4,229 people aboard were injured, but passengers reported uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions. The 14-year-old vessel had only emergency generator power, leaving those aboard without hot water, air conditioning or widespread use of toilets.

One Texas woman filed suit over the ordeal on Friday; ABC News reported that another sued over the weekend.

Aided by tugboats, the Triumph reached land in Mobile, Ala., late Thursday night. Investigators boarded the ship to start interviews before it reached land to avoid keeping passengers aboard longer than necessary.

So far, investigators have spoken to passengers from about 33 cabins on various parts of the ship as well as 21 crew members. Hatfield said there is no suspicion at this point that the fire was started intentionally.

She said the initial investigation has shown that fuel from a flexible hose, the fuel oil return line in the No. 6 diesel engine, leaked into a hot surface and ignited. The ship’s automatic fire suppression system activated immediately, but Hatfield said damage was unavoidable.

“Anytime you have a fire, you’re going to have damage,” she said. “They were able to contain the fire to a small area of the vessel, and they did a very good job with their fire containment.”

Hatfield told reporters that redundancy systems apparently kicked in on board, but the agencies are still looking into why the power was knocked out.

She said the line that had the leak is subject to routine preventative maintenance and would be examined by inspectors who check ships for safety. But, she said, it will take time to go over all the inspection and maintenance records to show when that part was last inspected.

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said her understanding is that the last full-scale Coast Guard inspection of the ship was on Nov. 15, 2012.

The Miami-based cruise operator has canceled all sailings aboard the ship through mid-April and estimated a financial hit of as much as $80 million.

The company still plansto return the ship to service for the April 18 sailing, de la Cruz said. The damage assessment is still ongoing, she said via email, and said it is too early to determine where the final repairs will be made.

Read more Top Stories stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
System designer Andy Dobrowolski looks on as the 200,000-gallon tank (actually two connected tanks) at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon is filled.

    Going with the flow: Water trickles into new Florida Keys aquarium

    Watching water trickle slowly into an empty 200,000-gallon fish tank isn't that far off from watching grass grow or paint dry.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">FAMILY BONDS:</span> The De Soto family, Dan, Marilyn and son Matthew, 13, help fill Easter baskets at St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, on Palm Sunday.  Volunteers from the church filled and delivered 1,800 baskets containing candy and snacks for children and toiletries and personal items for seniors. The church works with charities, hospitals and other churches.

    Easter Sunday

    South Florida faithful approach Easter as a time for service

    In the weeks leading up to Easter, church members have gone into overdrive, making goodie bags for the homeless, filling Easter baskets and distributing food to help those in need.

  •  
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.

    IN MY OPINION

    Greg Cote: Dynasty or dismantling for the Miami Heat?

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category