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TheSkipper

Shore Excursion Deaths in Chile

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Just passing this along.

SANTIAGO, Chile - A bus carrying cruise ship tourists plunged off a highway in northern Chile and tumbled 300 feet down a mountainside Wednesday, killing 12 Americans, U.S. and Chilean officials said.

Two other U.S. tourists and two Chileans  the driver and the tour guide  were hospitalized in serious condition, said Juan Carlos Poli, a city hall spokesman in the Pacific port city of Arica.

The tourists were returning to Celebrity Cruises' ship Millennium from an excursion to Lauca National Park when the driver swerved to avoid an approaching truck on a rugged highway near Arica, 1,250 miles north of Santiago, he said.

The bus went off the narrow highway and tumbled down a steep mountainside. Poli said the bus, which had a capacity of 16 passengers, "was totally destroyed."

"We have confirmed that all the victims were American citizens," Poli told the Associated Press by telephone from the hospital.

U.S. Embassy spokesman John Vance also confirmed the 12 U.S. deaths and said the embassy was sending consular officers to Arica.

The victims were all in their 60s and 70s, but authorities would not immediately confirm their identities.

The Millennium was docked in Arica, and the cruise line said the ship will remain there until further notice. It had been scheduled to leave for Peru early Thursday. The ship was carrying approximately 1,500 guests and 920 crew members.

The accident occurred 25 miles northeast of Arica on the road leading deep into the high Andes Mountains, connecting the coast with the Bolivian capital of La Paz.

The cruise line said it was flying family members of victims to Chile and sending a special assistance team to the ship to help its guests and crew.

"We continue to work with Chilean authorities and the U.S. Consulate in Santiago to assist our injured guests and the family members of those who died in this tragic accident," said Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises.

The ship is on a 14-night South American cruise. It departed Valparaiso, Chile, on March 19 and was scheduled to conclude in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 2.

Poli said autopsies will be conducted during the night so the bodies can be sent home as soon as possible.

Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, said the private tour was not affiliated with the cruise line.

Looks like Celebrity is doing all the right things. May God be with the families.

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A member of Cruise Crazies (Scapel, Joe) is on that cruise. A person from another board said he was not on the bus and that he is ok. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are affected by this terrible tragedy.

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More Info:

MIAMI – March 23, 2006 – Celebrity Cruises is confirming information provided by authorities in Arica, Chile, regarding its Millennium guests who were involved in yesterday’s tragic bus accident.

“We have spent the past 24 hours in almost constant contact with the families of our guests involved in yesterday’s terrible accident,†said Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises. “We also have been working around the clock with Chilean officials and can now confirm the names of those involved. Our most sincere condolences go out to all the families and friends who have been impacted by this heartbreaking event.â€Â

Formal confirmation of death falls under the jurisdiction of the Arica, Chile, medical examiner. Celebrity Cruises continues to cooperate fully with all local authorities to assist the injured and families of the deceased.

Confirmed deceased:

1. Carole Ruchelman, 63, of Monroe Township, NJ

2. Miriam Diamond, 75, of Monroe Township, NJ

3. Linda Greenfield, 63, of Stamford, CT

4. Ira Greenfield, 67, of Stamford, CT

5. Marvin Bier, 79, of Monroe Township, NJ

6. Shirley Bier, 76, of Monroe Township, NJ

7. Maria Eggers, 71, of Monroe Township, NJ

8. Hans Eggers, 72, of Monroe Township, NJ

9. Robert Rubin, 72, of Monroe Township, NJ

10. Barbara Rubin, 69, of Monroe Township, NJ

11. Frieda Kovar, 74, of Monroe Township, NJ

12. Arthur Kovar, 67, of Monroe Township, NJ

Confirmed injured and in stable condition:

1. Harold Ruchelman, 68, of Monroe Township, NJ

2. Bernard Diamond, 68, of Monroe Township, NJ

Celebrity Cruises will provide additional information regarding this matter as it becomes available. Information will also be posted on the Celebrity Cruises web site at http://www.celebrity.com.

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The tragedy has hit here very hard, since 12 of the 14 passengers were from an adult community in central New Jersey. All 14 passengers were B'Nai Brith members, and six of the dead, plus the two survivors, belonged to the same synagogue. Articles on the crash took up half the front page, plus 3 1/2 inside pages, in today's Newark Star Ledger, with pictures and articles about each of the deceased. A truly sad day for the New Jersey Jewish community.

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Another reason why you have to be careful when you book private shore excursions, not sanctioned by the cruise line. This was a privately arranged tour, and the tour operator was not licensed, and the driver had no driver's license.

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I believe the Greenfields from Stamford are the sister and brother in law of one of the cruisers that will be on my November cruise. From another board she is headed to Chile with her husband to identify the remains.

My thoughts go out to all the families.

She noted in a post that she has two independent tours set for their Hawaii cruise and she stated she will no doubt cancel them.

Its a sad note to the cruise.

Many people will take a second look into independent tours.

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I'm not so sure this being an independent tour is really even a factor. Think about some of the tours you've been on in the Caribbean..some of those roads are pretty darn scarey. This accident could have happened on a ship sponsored tour just as easily.

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