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'Passengers were throwing up, crying... I thought we were going to sink!' The terrifying moment fire engulfed Royal Caribbean cruise and crew got ready to abandon ship
A passenger is suing Royal Caribbean after alleging that he was flung nearly 18 feet against his cabin door and knocked unconscious during a stormy trip on the Anthem of the Seas earlier this month.
Bruce Simpson, who says that he suffered injuries to his face, torso and hands, is asking for compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court in Miami, alleges that despite knowledge of a well-forecast storm, Royal Caribbean acted in negligence when it let the Anthem of the Seas sail off the East Coast of the United States with 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members.
Simpson described the chaos on board as he sought medical treatment, saying there were insufficient emergency services available for passengers.
After regaining consciousness, he was told to wait in his room until the storm calmed before seeking further medical attention, the lawsuit claims.
“They took a calculated risk when they sent their passengers into the storm, and we don’t think the passengers should be the ones that pay for Royal Caribbean’s lack of judgment,” attorney Jason Itkin said in a written statement.
The incident took place on a scheduled journey from New Jersey to the Bahamas via Florida, and Royal Caribbean was eventually forced to turn the ship back due to storms off the Florida coast with winds well in excess of 100mph.
The cruise line maintained that the storm the ship encountered was much worse than predicted.
“If we knew that we were going to have those kinds of winds, the winds that we actually experienced with the ship, we would not have sailed into that. No. Absolutely we wouldn’t have (left port),” Bill Baumgartner, the senior vice president of global marine operations, told CNN.
In a statement at the time, Royal Caribbean said four people were injured but not seriously and the damage to public areas and cabins “in no way affect the sea worthiness of the ship.”
Passengers subsequently took to social media to comment and share photos and video of their experiences on the ship.
Shara Strand said she was “shaking all over” and suffering panic attacks during the high wind and rough seas.
Shara said she’s been on more than 20 cruises before, but never experienced anything like what happened on the Anthem of the Seas.
“I’m not being over dramatic by saying it was the scariest moment of my life – having no control in hurricane-like winds for hours on end with baby on board, not being able to leave our cabins.
“Royal Caribbean should be ashamed of themselves for continuing on a course Mother Nature deemed unfit,” Shara wrote on Facebook.
Pictures documented the wreckage of a ceiling that collapsed as the ship battled hurricane-force winds for hours on end, damaging furniture, fixtures and fittings.
At one point, a group of ten people were reportedly trapped between floors in an elevator.
Passengers Justin Scerbo and his wife Allison Musante, told CNN that the ship was leaning so much — Scerbo estimates 45 degrees — that water from a faucet hit the wall instead of going down the drain, and glasses were tumbling off the counter.
“After a vacation from hell, we’re good to just be at home,” Scerbo said.
Royal Caribbean issued an apology to passengers for “what they went through” and will refund their fares. Those who were aboard will also get a voucher for 50 percent of what they paid for use on a future cruise, the company said in a news release.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has called for the National Transportation Safety Board to examine why the ship set sail.
“The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?” Nelson asked earlier this month.
A massive fire broke out on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship early on Monday morning, causing more than 2,000 passengers to abandon their rooms and prepare to get into life boats.
The Grandeur of the Seas was forced to return to port after the rear of the ship caught fire, sending smoke into several hallways as passengers waited in assembly stations for more than four hours.
On Monday afternoon, Royal Caribbean announced that they were cancelling the cruise as it could no longer safely take passengers to the Bahamas, its intended destination.
The passengers will fly to Baltimore on Tuesday on flights organized by the cruise line.
'I heard these big explosions and saw the fire jump out of the ship,' passenger Dan McTigue told ABC News. 'We couldn't get to the muster station because it was on fire.'
'I started crying,' his granddaughter Sophia said. 'I thought we were gonna die.'
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Passengers report that amid the chaos life preservers were distributed to several people as they waited in safety areas
The fire broke out on deck 3 and was quickly extinguished but the damage caused Royal Caribbean to cancel the cruise bound for the Bahamas
Startling photos of the ship emerged on social media showing the entire rear of the vessel charred and destroyed. A bar and a restaurant were also destroyed by the flames.
No cause for the fire has been revealed, and authorities continue to investigate.
Royal Caribbean said that the blaze began at 2.50am and was extinguished about two hours later with no injuries reported. They said all 2,224 guests and 796 crew were safe and accounted for.
The ship had sailed from Baltimore on Friday and arrived in Freeport, Bahamas, Monday afternoon.
Royal Caribbean announced that the 2,224 passengers would be receiving a full refund and a gift certificate from the company. The company is also organizing flights for all passengers.
Bang Warren, one of the passengers who had to evacuate her room as a warning horn blared over the sound system, described the chaotic scene to The Baltimore Sun.
'A lot of people were passing out with fear,' she said. She added that she saw crew members distributing oxygen masks and life vests: 'I know some children were vomiting.'
Grandeur of the Seas passenger Danielle Miller initially thought the ship was sinking as she filmed this footage
South Jersey resident Jennifer Allen filmed the moment when lifeboats were lowered into the ocean as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas caught fire on Monday morning
The ship was forced to dock in Freeport, Grand Bahama island as the fire damage was assessed
According to several passenger accounts nobody was seriously injured but the fire did cause smoke and flooding
Another passenger, Danielle Miller, 23, said that she was sound asleep and was unaware of anything untoward until the ship's intercom asked passengers to put life jackets on.
'My first thought was that we were sinking,' said Danielle of her terror.
'I opened the door and just see people running around with life jackets on and we were being yelled at to get our life jackets on and run up to a deck that was two floors above us,' she told ABC News.
'But we didn't know what was going on because when we were going to bed it was really stormy, so we honestly thought the boat might have been sinking. And we were just panicking and running upstairs.
'And we didn't know for about a half hour that there was a fire two decks below where we were at.'
Miller revealed she was so nervous as the fire raged that her hands were shaking and her heart was pounding.
'A couple people fainted. People were throwing up, crying. Just anxiety attacks everywhere. I was just telling my roommate stay calm,' she said.
Royal Caribbean said that two guests were treated after fainting, and medical staff responded to reports of high blood pressure and an ankle sprain.
Fire Investigators: A fire that broke out aboard a Royal Caribbean ship Monday did enough damage that the rest of the cruise was canceled
Fiery Call: The fire that began at 2:50 a.m. Monday was extinguished about two hours later with no injuries reported
President and CEO Adam Goldstein (left) meets with passengers on board Grandeur of the Seas. Courtesy Royal Caribbean while (right) the Grandeur of the Seas captain and Royal Caribbean executives meet with passengers on board the ship after the fire
Adam Goldstein, president & CEO or Royal Caribbean and Anders Aasen, AVP of Technical Services survey the fire damage
Nathan Pletscher spoke to ABC News to explain how he became nervous for his parents aboard the ship only after he looked at a photo tweeted by Royal Caribbean's public relations team.
'We originally saw a news article and were a little nervous. When we made contact with my parents, they said there was a small fire,' he said.
'When I saw the photo on Twitter, I said, "That was a little more than a small fire." It's really fortunate the crew was able to get fire under control and things of that nature.'
Speaking to the news network, Pletscher admitted that his parents had a 'sense of panic' and had become 'obviously nervous', but were calmed by the ships crew.
'When the alarm first went off, there was an 'uh-oh' moment,' Pletscher said. 'But they couldn't say enough about how organized and professional both the captain and crew were. They kept everyone calm and were extremely transparent on with the whole situation.'
The Twitter account for their public relations department announced they were in the process of scheduling passengers on flights to Baltimore.
Panic on the High Seas: Royal Caribbean said all guests and 796 crew were safe and accounted for
Royal Caribbean has said they are in the process of arranging flights for the 2,224 guests currently aboard the ship
Firefighter Brian Goss, a passenger on the ship, told WOOD-TV that some of the cabins experienced flooding and that the hallways smelled of smoke for most of the morning.
But he praised the efforts of the company, and said they were working tirelessly on the situation: 'Up all night in emergency mode and now serving food and drinks with smiling faces and no sleep.'
An announcement from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship that passengers needed to go their muster stations roused Mark J. Ormesher from his stateroom on the Grandeur of the Seas early Monday.
Ormesher said in an email to The Associated Press that immediately after the captain's announcement, his room attendant knocked on the door and told him and his girlfriend to grab their flotation devices, saying: 'This was not a drill.'
The native of England, who lives in Manassas, Virginia, Ormesher said he and his girlfriend smelled acrid smoke as they went to their muster station, the ship's casino. He said the crew quickly provided instruction.
A provided by Royal Caribbean shows the fire-damaged exterior on the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship
The company in a statement on its website said it is 'deeply sorry for this unexpected development in our guests' vacation. We understand that this may have been a very stressful time for them'
'This encouraged calm amongst the passengers,' he said.
Passengers were required to remain at their stations for four hours, he said, and the captain 'provided us as much information as we needed to stay safe.'
Ormesher, 25, and on his first cruise, said the air conditioner had been shut off, and as the hours passed and the ship got hot, bottled water was passed around.
The crew and passengers remained calm, and helped those who needed it. Crying babies were given formula and held while their parents used the bathrooms.
After passengers were allowed to leave their stations, Ormesher said he saw water on the outside of deck 5 and in the hallways. The mooring lines were destroyed he said; crew members brought new lines from storage.
Royal Caribbean said all 2,224 guests and 796 crew were safe and accounted for
In Freeport, passenger Andrea Sanders of Washington, D.C., said she slept on the deck with hundreds of other passengers as smoke billowed out of the stern of the ship. 'I was terrified with it being my first cruise,' Sanders told The Freeport News as she ate lunch in port.
Magnus Alnebeck, general manager of the Pelican Bay Hotel, said they were asked to hold rooms for passengers, although it was not yet clear how many would stay there.
The ship will stay docked in Freeport overnight.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement on its website that most public areas and staterooms are safe and power, propulsion and communications systems functioned without interruption.
Royal Caribbean International president and CEO Adam Goldstein met with passengers in Freeport.
A tweet sent from the NTSB shows they are investigating the situation
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it will join the U.S. Coast Guard in investigating the fire.
Carnival Corp. also had trouble with fire aboard ship earlier this year.
The 900-foot Triumph was disabled during a February cruise by an engine room fire in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving thousands of passengers to endure cold food, unsanitary conditions and power outages while the ship was towed to Mobile, Alabama.
It remained there for repairs until early May when it headed back to sea under its own power