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Carnival Triumph breaks free of moorings; shipyard worker missing

April 03, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • The Carnival cruise ship Triumph broke free from its moorings in Mobile, Ala., after strong winds.
The Carnival cruise ship Triumph broke free from its moorings in Mobile,… (WKRG-TV / NDN )

Carnival's cursed cruise ship Triumph broke loose from its moorings Wednesday when strong winds hit Mobile, Ala., and two shipyard workers fell into the Mobile River. One was still missing by evening. 

Helicopters and search teams scoured the river for the employee of BAE Systems shipyard. The other one was rescued and hospitalized with mild hypothermia.

The Triumph was at the shipyard undergoing repairs after a disastrous February cruise, when an engine fire knocked out power. The 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members endured miserable conditions for five days: urine and feces in hallways, spoiled food, long lines for the few working toilets and rooms that were too hot or too cold. When tugboats finally coaxed the ship into port at Mobile, passengers lined the decks, smiling and waving, with some of them singing, "Sweet Home Alabama."

On Wednesday, the Triumph spent just a few hours adrift; Carnival said it had been secured by early Wednesday evening. About 800 people were aboard -- 600 crew members and 200 contractors -- but none of them were hurt, Carnival said.

Carnival blamed the winds for the Triumph's breaking loose.

The National Weather Service reported a 66-mph wind gust at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex airport about five minutes before the Coast Guard received a report that the Triumph had broken free.

Carnival said the ship suffered "limited" damage and would be moved soon to the Mobile Cruise Terminal across the 700-foot-wide Mobile River from the shipyard, near the mouth of Mobile Bay. Tugboats would remain alongside as a precaution while the ship was tied up, Carnival said.

Officials gave conflicting reports as to how the two workers fell into the river. The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department said they were in a guard shack that was blown into the water by the strong winds. But a shipyard spokesman called that account inaccurate, saying the Triumph crashed into a pier and knocked them in.

"When the Carnival cruise ship broke loose from its mooring, the stern swung and hit what is referred to as a stub pier," BAE's John Measell told The Times. "These two employees were on this short pier, and they went into the water when the ship hit the pier, and the pier crumpled.”

Measell said he didn't know how the ship could have blown loose.

When asked about Measell's description of events, fire department spokesman Steve Huffman said his personnel at the scene said the winds were to blame.

"That was the information reported to my personnel at the scene at the time," Huffman said. 

Measell said Triumph did not appear to hit anything other than the stub pier.

The Coast Guard and the Mobile Police Department were searching for the missing employee, Coast Guard spokeswoman Lily Zepeda told The Times. Zepeda didn't have further information about whether the ship struck anything after becoming unmoored.

Wednesday's incident became just the latest in a series of mishaps both large and small for Carnival ships in recent months.

After the Triumph's infamous cruise in February, several more Carnival cruise ships suffered power and mechanical problems in March. The Legend and the Dream had to cut their trips short, and the Elation had to be escorted to port by a tugboat.

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