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Empress of the Seas

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Crew injured as lifeboat plunges from ship

Holding on: A crewmember of the Empress of the Sea attempts to comfort one of the first crew members plucked from the water after their lifeboat fell 60 feet from the deck of the ship during a training exercise. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)


By Stuart Roberts and Eloisa Mayers


Seven crew members from the Empress of the Seas cruise ship were seriously injured after a lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the waters off Dockyard yesterday.

All seven crewmen were rushed to the King Edward IIV Memorial Hospital after their horrific fall. Witnesses told The Royal Gazette the accident was “bloody†and “drasticâ€Â.

Police media spokesman Dwayne Caines told The Royal Gazette last night that one of the seven men involved in the accident had been airlifted out of the Island for treatment of spinal injuries.

A second man was in the hospital's intensive care unit after nearly drowning. Last night his condition was described as stable.

Three other victims are now recovering on general wards suffering from injuries including a separated shoulder, lacerations to the head and a dislocated and fractured shoulder in general wards. Two others involved in the accident were released from hospital last night.

Cruise ship officials have released the nationalities of some of the victims: two Filipino, one South African, one Ecuadorian, one West Indian, another South American of an unknown country and one crew member of unknown nationality.

At 11.10 a.m. yesterday Police received the report of an accident when the stern of a lifeboat dropped suddenly as it was being lowered as part of a safety drill. The boat dropped 60 feet into the waters off King's Wharf in Dockyard where the ship was berthed. Several of the men were thrown out of the boat when it smashed into the water.

According to Police reports emergency personnel assisted in pulling the men to safety.

“This matter is under investigation by both the Bermuda Police Service and a surveyor from Marine and Ports,†said Mr. Caines.

The Royal Gazette spoke to one witness said two of the men “were pretty mashed up†and another who called the accident “bloodyâ€Â.

“One man had blood all over him,†she said.

A witness also told ZMB news that the lifeboat carrying the men was filled with blood.

The last man was taken off the ship just after 1 p.m. was in “critical†condition, according to Jerome Robinson of Dockyard Marine and Ports Department.

Representatives of Harbour Radio, Fire, Police and Ambulances were all at the scene at King's Wharf, Dockyard, yesterday morning. Many of the passengers had no idea what had happened as it happened when many of the ship's passengers were ashore.

At the scene, several of the passengers looked out their windows or from the deck 60 feet up to see the injured man being put into the ambulance.

Several of the life rafts were tied up to the wharf, including the broken raft. However, it was not certain whether the ship would be able to sail back with a broken life raft.

But Henry Hayward of Meyer Shipping said he thought “(the cruise ship) was well covered for lifeboats as they normally bring spare lifeboats,†he said.

Meyer Shipping are the local agents for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

There is a minimum number of lifeboats a cruise ships needs before they are allowed to go out to sea, Mr. Hayward said.

The number of lifeboats the ship needs to carry depends on the number of passengers on board. “It depends on the ship's design,†he said.

Lifeboats on a cruise ship carries must be used in “all sorts of different circumstances, for example if it's sinking on one side, then there needs to be enough lifeboats on the side of the ship that is upright to hold all the passengers, he said.

Mr. Hayward said that not only do cruise ships carry the large orange life rafts that can hold up to 150 passengers, they also carry a vast number of “inflatable†safety devices.

He said that the accident occurred during a “normal†exercise but he “had no details at this point.â€Â

“I'm pretty sure there is no problem from that angle,†he said.

Duncan Currie, Chief Surveyor at the Department of Marine Administration said their investigation is ongoing.

“We need to check the remaining lifeboats to see if it is safe for the ship to continue,†Mr. Currie said.

He said the process of the investigation was slow as “the main witnesses to the accident were hospitalised, so they did not consider interviewing them at present.â€Â

Although the investigation had not been completed, Mr. Currie said the accident would seem “potentially to be caused by a “mal-operation of an onboard release mechanism.â€Â

“But an investigation by the Department of Maritime Administration is still ongoing,†he said.

He said he is going back to the ship today to continue his investigation and a representative of the manufacturers of the type of lifeboat used on the Empress of the Seas will also be on the ship.

He said the release mechanism is a special thing on the life raft itself and not on board the ship.

“The release mechanism needs to be operated properly,†he said.

However, this kind of release mechanism has “a history of problems,†he said.

There have been numerous accidents not only on cruise ships, but on any ship with these life rafts,†he said.

Mr. Currie and the representative of the life raft manufacturers will be “training staff on the use of these releases today.â€Â

The releases are operated manually but there is a built in safety features to prevent release at the wrong time. Safety features must be followed, and according to Mr. Currie, there is no way the life boat will release before it is in the water.

The Empress of the Seas sailed into Bermuda on Monday and is due to sail to New Jersey on Friday.

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I think this is very sad. :cry: I wonder what the passengers are thinking? Would you be concerned for you safty after seeing this happen to the crew? Years ago and I don't think it is done anymore, but when lifeboat drill was going on they would lower a few of the boats with passengers in them. I have not seen this done in a long time.


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Very tragic!!!! I hope they will all recover! This is kind of scary if people are relying on something to save them that isn't safe itself!

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