Marine Accident Report

Engineroom Fire On Board U.S. Small Passenger Vessel
Queen of the West
Columbia River, near Rufus, Oregon
April 8, 2008

NTSB Number: MAR-09/04
NTIS Number: PB2009-916404
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Executive Summary:

About 0012 Pacific daylight time on April 8, 2008, a fire broke out in the engineroom of the 221-foot-long U.S. small passenger vessel Queen of the West. The vintage-style, paddlewheel vessel was traveling east on the Columbia River near Rufus, Oregon, with 124 overnight passengers and 53 crewmembers on board, as part of a 7-day cruise. Though not required by Coast Guard regulations, the Queen of the West had an automatic fire detection system and a fixed fire suppression system on board. The systems functioned properly alerting the navigation team to the fire and helping to extinguish the flames. The crew was able to contain the fire to the engineroom, and the vessel did not need to be evacuated. The Queen of the West sustained about $3.9 million in damage. One crewmember was treated for mild hypothermia.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the fire on board the Queen of the West was the failure of a pressurized component on the port main propulsion hydraulic system, resulting in hydraulic oil spraying onto the port engine’s exhaust piping and igniting. Contributing to the survivability of the vessel, and to the absence of injury or loss of life, was Majestic America Line’s voluntary installation of an automatic fire detection system and a fixed fire suppression system.

The safety issues discussed in this report address the importance of having a functioning automatic fire detection system and a fixed fire suppression system on small passenger vessels and the inadequate requirements for small passenger vessels regarding out-of-water survival craft for passengers and crew.

As a result of the investigation, one new recommendation and one reiterated recommendation are addressed to the U.S. Coast Guard.