NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


SECOND UPDATE ON NTSB INVESTIGATION OF
FIRE ABOARD THE CRUISE SHIP "ECSTASY"

September 4, 1998

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the July 20 fire aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Ecstasy is continuing. This advisory is an update on the Safety Board's press advisory of July 23. What follows describes preliminary factual information developed by NTSB investigators; no NTSB factual reports have been completed, no analysis by the Board has been made about the significance of this information to the cause of the accident, and no determination of probable cause has been rendered.

Second Interviews of Welders

As reported in the July 23 advisory, two welders who were in the laundry room at the time the fire broke out told investigators that they had not yet begun welding. On August 13, a Safety Board investigator re-interviewed the welders, who said that although they had not yet begun welding, they had turned the equipment on in preparation for welding. One of the welders said he inadvertently allowed the welding electrode to come into contact with a ground clamp, causing it to arc. He then was alerted to a fire on the deck by the other welder. Both subsequently observed fire in exhaust ducting in the overhead of the laundry room.

Metallurgical analysis by Safety Board investigators detected evidence of electrical arcing on the grounding clamp of the welding equipment.

The welders' statements, the metallurgical analysis and other physical evidence are being assembled and are under review by the NTSB staff.

Toxicology

Carnival Cruise Lines was notified by the U.S. Coast Guard at approximately 12:30 a.m., Tuesday, July 21 to conduct post accident toxicological screening for drugs and alcohol on pertinent officers and crew. Technicians from Toxicology Testing Service, Inc., of Miami, began blood specimen collections for alcohol testing and urine specimen collections for drug testing aboard the ship at approximately 4:30 a.m. on the 21st, according to federal chain of custody documents. Results of the tests conducted on 79 officers and crew will be placed in the Board's public docket at a later time, but preliminary results on the welders were negative for both alcohol and drugs.

Passenger Surveys

The Survival Factors Group has mailed out surveys to 303 randomly selected passengers who were aboard the Ecstasy at the time of the fire. The survey questions passengers on their experiences during the emergency, their opinions of the pre-departure emergency information they were given, what difficulties if any they encountered in hearing emergency information broadcast by the crew, observations of crew responses to the emergency, and whether they had communications problems with the crew. So far, about 17 percent of the surveys have been returned.

Fire Group

According to the ship's log, the first fire alarm was sounded in the bridge at 5:10 p.m. The fire was brought under control shortly after 9:00 p.m.

Flammability tests are under consideration for some of the materials involved in the fire, both in the duct work and on the aft mooring deck.

Future Activities

Factual reports are being prepared for the public docket, and staff is considering what further tests/studies/testimony are required to complete the factual record. Investigations generally take about a year before a final report containing the Board's conclusions and probable cause is issued. Safety recommendations may be issued at any time.

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.