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Alaska Cruise Ship Passenger Dies in Gangway Accident

June 12, 1994| From Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — A cruise ship gangway broke from its supports at a downtown dock Saturday, killing a tourist who fell into the water and hit her head on the side of the ship, officials said.

Three other tourists hung onto the dangling gangway for more than an hour while rescuers secured it.

Mary Ellen Dierker, 52, of St. Louis cracked her skull on the ship as she fell into Gastineau Channel, officials said. A crewman dove 30 feet into the frigid water and pulled the unconscious woman onto the ship, but she died at a hospital about 2 1/2 hours later.

Five other tourists were hurt, with most of the injuries reported to be minor. One woman broke her ankle.

The passengers were leaving the 257-foot Yorktown Clipper and preparing to head for flights home when the gangway became separated from the dock and ship. The 35-foot gangway was left suspended at an angle by cables connected to the ship's crane and ropes tied to the dock.

Coast Guard officials said the accident appeared to have been caused by a design flaw in the load-bearing pins and brackets that connect the gangway to the ship.

The ship, built in 1988, is owned by Clipper Cruise Line of St. Louis. With a capacity of 138 passengers and 37 crew members, it is one of the smaller ships that cruises southeast Alaska's Inside Passage.

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