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Cruise ship tilts, many aboard hurt

Steering equipment problems are blamed for the scary incident in which the ship suddenly rolled to its left. The new 113,000-ton vessel was 11 miles out of port.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 19, 2006


PORT CANAVERAL - The Crown Princess, a cruise ship making its fourth voyage, suddenly tilted heavily to its left Tuesday, throwing passengers and crew to the deck and leaving two people critically injured, including a child, officials said.

Another 12 were seriously hurt and about 70 had lesser injuries, said Cape Canaveral Fire Rescue Capt. Jim Watson.

The ship returned to port, where medical personnel were waiting to treat the injured. Fifteen passengers were taken to hospitals by ambulance and another 18 by bus, Watson said.

No deaths were reported, and the Coast Guard said all passengers and crew were accounted for.

Debbie Helton, a spokeswoman for Cape Canaveral Hospital, said seven patients were brought there and 15 more were expected. Of the seven, three had moderate injuries and four had minor injuries, she said. She said two more patients went to Holms Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.

Parrish Medical Center spokeswoman Natalie Sellers said about 20 people were treated at the hospital, mostly with minor neck and back injuries and bumps and bruises.

The Crown Princess, which was carrying about 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew, had just left Port Canaveral en route to New York after a nine-day Western Caribbean cruise. It was 11 miles southeast of the port when it had problems with its steering equipment, causing it to roll suddenly, Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge said.

Judge could not immediately say how many degrees the 113,000-ton ship listed.

Tom Daus, 32, told the Associated Press in a cell phone interview that he was sunbathing on the ship's upper deck when the ship rolled.

"It became very disastrous because everything was flying with them - tables, glasses, lounge chairs went flying," said Daus. "I was just holding on for dear life onto the bannister of the ship."

Daus, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said several of the upper decks were flooded and the elevators were not working. "The water came gushing out of the pool like a mini tsunami. It was really scary. People who were in the pool were shoved out," he said.

Daus said most of the injured he saw were elderly people, being taken out on wheelchairs or stretchers.

The passengers were encouraged to stay on the ship until arrangements could be made to send them home, Daus said. The ship was originally scheduled to end the trip Thursday in New York.

Stan Payne, CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority, said the cruise line wanted passengers to wait until arrangements could be made, but they could leave if they chose to.

"The problem is one of logistics, people getting to the airport, people getting to Orlando. We have been told Orlando's hotels are full," Payne said. He said the ship would remain in port for several days.

The ship is owned by Princess Cruises, one of 12 brands operated by Carnival Corp. in Miami. The company said it was investigating the steering malfunction.

"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.