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Cruise line assigns blame

Federal investigations are pending, but the company faults human error for the ship's tilt at sea.

Published July 26, 2006

ORLANDO - Human error caused a cruise ship to tilt at sea last week, injuring 240 passengers as tables, chairs and debris flew about the boat, a cruise line official said.

Though federal investigations continue, Princess Cruises president Alan Buckelow wrote in a letter to passengers dated Monday and posted on the company's Web site that "the incident was due to human error and the appropriate personnel changes have been made."

The letter said it would be "inappropriate for us to comment in any detail" until all investigations were published.

"The captain remains in command of the ship. We have the utmost confidence in him," company spokeswoman Julie Benson said.

Other crew members on the ship were reassigned duties, but Benson declined to give further details.

"It was an isolated situation, and I think passengers generally understand that," Benson said. "Beyond the incident that we had earlier this year on another ship, we have never had an incident like this that we can recall in our history."

The Crown Princess unexpectedly heeled to its side July 18 shortly after departing Port Canaveral, where it stopped for a few hours before a scheduled return to New York to finish a nine-day Caribbean cruise. The ship tilted an estimated 16 to 18 degrees, seriously injuring at least 20 people when passengers and objects tumbled.

Those aboard described a terrifying interlude in which they were certain the entire 113,000-ton ship would tip over. All 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew members were accounted for, and all customers received a full refund for the journey.

More than 90 people on the ship were taken to hospitals, two with critical injuries, the Coast Guard said. As of Monday, all but one had been released.

The ship immediately returned to Port Canaveral after the incident, but departed again for New York two days later and picked up a new load of passengers for a similar, shortened cruise.

A Coast Guard spokesman declined to comment on the cruise line's statement except to say the agency's joint investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board wasn't yet completed.

The ship was on autopilot, with its captain, Andrew Proctor, away from the bridge at the time.

[Last modified July 26, 2006, 05:34:31]

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