Last updated: 03:52 PM ET, Tue February 12 2013

NTSB, Coast Guard Launch Investigation into Carnival Triumph Fire

Features & Advice Carnival Cruise Line Theresa Norton February 12, 2013

NTSB, Coast Guard Launch Investigation into Carnival Triumph Fire

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the cause of the Feb. 10 fire in the engine room on the Carnival Triumph. The fire caused the ship to lose propulsion and power in the Gulf of Mexico, although it has some emergency generator power. The ship on Feb. 12 was being towed by tugs Resolve Pioneer and Dabhol the 270 miles north to Mobile, Ala., escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Vigorous, with an expected arrival of Feb. 14.

The investigation will be led by Coast Guard members from both the Investigations and Cruise Ship Centers of Expertise, along with a representative from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center. It will be joined by five investigators from the NTSB Office of Marine Safety and the Office of Research and Engineering. The U.S. team is expected to arrive in Mobile on Feb. 13.

The Carnival Triumph is registered in the Bahamas, so the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency. The investigation is expected to identify causal and contributing factors that led to the fire, as well as evaluate the crew response and effectiveness of the fire-fighting systems. Carnival Cruise Lines said the fire was extinguished quickly by its automatic systems.

Carnival said it would fly the 3,143 guests from Mobile to Houston, but was unable to provide further details. Previously, when the ship was headed to Progreso, Mexico, Carnival said it planned to charter aircraft to take passengers back to the U.S.

Reports of conditions onboard varied, with some guests apparently relaying harrowing conditions and others trying to make the best of it. Some news outlets said guests were texting loved ones that there were long lines for food—such as “meatless hamburgers”—and that few toilets were working. Air-conditioning was not working, so some passengers chose to sleep outside on deck. (The weather in the Mobile area was rainy with a flash-food alert until 1 a.m. Feb. 13; the high temperature was 61 degrees.)

Carnival said there is running water in the cabins, albeit cold water, but guests could take showers. The line also said “some toilets are operational in the public areas (there was a period last night that the toilets were down but technicians were able to get some of them back on line this morning).”

Carnival said it is providing meals and refreshments. The poolside grill was open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 11 and again at 7 a.m. Feb. 12. The entertainment staff was organizing for guests. Alcohol was served on Feb. 11, Carnival said, but it was unclear if the bars remained open Feb. 12. “Generally speaking, the mood on board is good under the circumstances and most guests are making the most of it,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email.

Carnival Triumph departed Galveston on Feb. 7 and was scheduled to return Feb. 11. The Feb. 11 and Feb. 16 cruises are cancelled.