Two Crew Members Lose Their Lives on Cruise Ship

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In a tragic incident, two crew members lost their lives on a Holland America cruise ship, as confirmed by the cruise line. The fatal accident took place on Friday, March 22, 2024 in the engineering compartment of the ship, Nieuw Amsterdam, while it was anchored at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. The ship had started a seven-day journey from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 16.

The Florida-based Holland America Line issued an official statement about the incident, though it did not reveal the identities of the deceased crew members. The statement read, “On Friday, while the Nieuw Amsterdam was docked at the privately owned island of Half Moon Cay, an unexpected steam discharge in one of the ship’s engineering compartments resulted in the death of two crew members.”

As per the cruise line’s statement, the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Dutch Safety Board are investigating the exact circumstances surrounding the steam discharge. The Bahamas’ Coroner’s Court, when asked for specific details about the identities of the crew members and the precise cause of their deaths, did not respond immediately.

However, an attorney specializing in maritime affairs from Miami reported the casualties to be third engineer Joseph Terrado and Wawan Gusnawan, employed as a wiper, a position usually tasked with the upkeep and cleaning of engineering areas. One held Philippine citizenship, while the other’s nationality remained unspecified.

Passenger Laine Doss recalled the moment when the ship’s captain informed the passengers about the sad event, “The captain’s request for a moment of silence led us all to a deep reflection on the events.”

Holland America Line announced the provision of counseling services for crew members needing support. In their statement, they expressed, “This incident deeply saddens all of us at Holland America Line, and our thoughts and prayers are with our team members’ families at this difficult time.”

After returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Nieuw Amsterdam resumed its operations and embarked on a new journey, with a planned stop at Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Though deaths among crew members on cruise ships are not common, they highlight the potential risks on such vessels. A study by Bowling Green State University reported 623 deaths on cruise ships between 2000 and 2019, with 89% of these being passengers and the remaining 11% crew members. The pandemic has also resulted in non-COVID-19-related deaths among crew members stranded on cruise ships.

In a separate incident unrelated to this event, a fire broke out in the port-side exhaust funnel of the Carnival Freedom, another Florida-based cruise ship in the Bahamas. As per the cruise line, the fire, which occurred on Saturday, March 23, caused alarm among the passengers and required the ship to be taken out of service for repairs. No casualties were reported in this incident.

In a statement released on Sunday, Carnival Cruises acknowledged reports from witnesses who claimed to have observed signs of a lightning strike or heard thunder before the fire started.

Passenger Heath Barnes narrated the unexpected diversion of the ship to Freeport due to bad weather and strong winds when the fire erupted. “I was taken aback,” he said. “Seeing black smoke and flames coming from the back of the cruise ship isn’t normal.” Barnes also reported hearing “a deafening thunderclap, the likes of which I’ve never heard” just before the fire.

The cruise company confirmed that the fire was successfully extinguished by the crew.

After an assessment by their technical team, the cruise line stated that the damage was significant enough to necessitate immediate repairs before the ship could resume its regular sailing schedule. The funnel’s condition was secured, and arrangements were made for passengers to return to Port Canaveral, Florida, while the ship proceeded to Freeport for the necessary repairs.

According to Carnival Cruises, the damage was more severe than initially estimated, leading to the urgent need for repairs to the funnel. This situation resulted in the cancelation of upcoming cruises scheduled to depart from Port Canaveral on March 25 and 29.

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