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Sunday, April 17, 2005

'Freak' 70 foot wave hits cruise ship. Vicious seas off Florida - Break out the Draminine... and band-aids..and insurance.

A 'shot over the bow' ?

'Freak' wave rocks cruise

70-footer hits N.Y.-bound ship


A "freak wave" more than 70 feet high slammed a luxury cruise ship steaming for New York yesterday, flooding cabins, injuring passengers and forcing the liner to stop for emergency repairs.

The Norwegian Dawn, an opulent ocean liner almost 1,000 feet long, limped into Charleston, S.C., yesterday afternoon after it hit vicious seas in an overnight storm off Florida - then was creamed by the rogue wave after dawn.

"[My room] was destroyed by stuff getting thrown all over the place," passenger James Fraley, of Keansburg, N.J., told NBC News before embarking on the 12-hour drive home because he didn't want to set foot on the ship again.

"It was pure chaos."

The ship, which sailed from New York last Sunday with 2,500 passengers, had been due back today.

It weathered most of a wild storm that featured gale-force winds and choppy seas. But then the vessel, longer than three football fields, was suddenly smacked by the "freak wave," said Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison. It broke a pair of windows and flooded 62 cabins, she said.

"The sea had actually calmed down when the wave seemed to come out of thin air at daybreak," Robison said. "Our captain, who has 20 years on the job, said he never saw anything like it."

The tidal wave wrecked windows on the ninth and 10th floors and wreaked havoc below decks, destroying furniture, the onboard theater, and a store that sold expensive gifts.

It also injured four passengers and terrified scores more, many of whom lost belongings and were being flown back to New York early this morning.

"My daughter said people were freaking out," said Mel Blanck, 74, whose daughter, Caren Hogan, 42, of Matawan, N.J., was vacationing aboard with her family. "She said some doors were ripped off and broken glass was everywhere."

In a message Hogan left on her parents' voice mail, she said her ship "feels like the Titanic" and described "water running everywhere, with people getting hurt and panicking."

"She felt lucky that she and her children weren't hurt," said Blanck, whose daughter had called from South Carolina last night. "She's calm now, but she said it was a nightmare."

The floating city of a ship, which was commissioned in 2002, left New York a week ago for Orlando, Miami and the Bahamas. It had started heading home when it ran into the wicked weather.

During the storm, one frightened passenger called a relative who relayed the information to the Coast Guard, which escorted the ship into Charleston yesterday.

"The ocean is unforgiving; it doesn't care who is out there," said Petty Officer Bobby Nash of the Coast Guard in Florida. "This could have happened to anyone."

Repairs were done last night, and the ship resumed it's voyage around midnight after a team of Coast Guard inspectors gave it approval.

Many of the Norwegian Dawn's passengers remained on the ship while it was readied for the sea again, Robison said. The battered vessel is expected to return to New York tomorrow.

All passengers would be given a partial refund, a credit for a future trip and access to the ship's open bar, Robison said.

Originally published on April 17, 2005


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