The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the July 20 fire aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Ecstasy is continuing. The cruise ship company plans to move the ship up to Newport News, Virginia for repair work. That voyage might begin as early as tomorrow. Safety Board investigators will remain aboard the ship until their work is completed.
Interview of Captain Sartori
Yesterday, the Safety Board interviewed Captain Vittorio Sartori, who has been a ship's master for 30 of his 52-year career at sea. On direct questioning by the NTSB, Capt. Sortori said that at no time during the incident was he attempting to evade the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard or the Safety Board. His immediate concern was to position the ship in such a manner as to keep the stern section downwind so that smoke would not encroach on the passengers and crew.
Capt. Sartori said that at about 5:10 p.m., several fire alarms sounded on the bridge, first from the main laundry, then almost immediately thereafter from the stern thruster room, the steering gear room and the Riviera Deck aft (mooring deck). When the Coast Guard called him, he told them that his crew was checking the situation to ascertain whether assistance was required. According to the Captain, at the time that the Coast Guard told him to move the ship directly to an anchorage, the Ecstasy's engines shut down and it lost power to the steering gear and stern thruster.
Interview of Welders
The Safety Board interviewed the two welders who were in the laundry room at about the time the fire broke out. They said that, while they were there to repair a broken bolt on a piece of machinery used to dry and fold bed sheets, they had not yet begun welding when the fire started. The NTSB is removing that bolt and an associated piece of metal for laboratory examination to determine if there is evidence of any recent welding to them.
Examination of Laundry Room
During a more thorough examination of the laundry room yesterday, access panels were removed from the laundry's vent system. Some evidence of fire was detected. Investigators are still looking for potential ignition sources.
Damage to Propulsion and Steering
As has been reported, the ship lost propulsion during the incident. Propulsion control cabling that passed through the area of the major fire on the aft mooring deck was found to have been burned through. That cabling has been rerouted and propulsion power has now been restored to the ship. In addition, the port steering room sustained heat damage, disabling the equipment in that room.
All NTSB investigators will have left Miami by Friday evening. The Safety Board will survey by mail a random sampling of 300 passengers to collect their experiences and observations during the fire emergency. Interviews with cruise ship personnel will continue, as will laboratory analysis of material the Board deems pertinent to its investigation of the source of the fire.
Safety Board investigations typically take 12 months or so before issuance of a final report. Safety recommendations can be issued at any time.