- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

MIAMI (AP) — An explosion and fire in the boiler room of a docked cruise ship killed at least four crew members yesterday and injured more than 15 others before the flames were extinguished, authorities said. None of the ship’s more than 2,100 passengers was injured.

The explosion occurred on Norwegian Cruise Line’s SS Norway, a vintage ship that has been churning the oceans for the better part of four decades. It was once in keen competition with the famed Queen Elizabeth 2 on the trans-Atlantic run.

The explosion appeared to be an accident.

Police said after the explosion that two crew members died at the scene, and authorities later reported two additional deaths, including one yesterday evening at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, a spokeswoman said.

Fifteen crew members were brought to Jackson Memorial Hospital, and five of them were in critical condition, spokesman Victoria Zambrano said. Victims were taken to other hospitals, but Miami-Dade officials would not say which ones.

The Norway came into the Port of Miami at the end of a weeklong Caribbean cruise around 5 a.m., with 2,135 passengers and 911 crew members on board, port director Charles Towsley said. The fire began about two hours later, the result of an explosion that was likely caused by a steam leak, said Miami-Dade Police Director Carlos Alvarez.

The force of the explosion tossed four crew members through an open cargo bay door into water, Mr. Alvarez said. They were hauled back into the ship with a rope ladder.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers put out the fire in about an hour, Coast Guard Petty Officer Anastasia Burns said.

Ken Hunt, 81, said he was in his cabin when he heard the explosion.

“I didn’t pay any attention at first, I thought we just hit the dock. But then the lights went out,” he said.

The evacuation went smoothly, though the passengers weren’t told what was going on, Mr. Hunt said. Once off the ship, the passengers squeezed into a customs hall to wait.

The Norway was scheduled to sail again yesterday, but that cruise was canceled so officials could examine the damage, Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison said.

The ship was built in 1961. During Memorial Day weekend two years ago, Coast Guard inspectors discovered about 100 “soft patches” covering holes in fire sprinkler lines that authorities said could have failed under intense heat.

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