Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share this page

Accident Report Detail

Fire on Board the Panamanian Passenger Ship Universe Explorer

Executive Summary

​Early on July 27, 1996, while the Panamanian passenger ship Universe Explorer was en route from Juneau, Alaska, to Glacier Bay, Alaska with 1,006 people aboard, a fire started in the main laundry. Dense smoke and heat spread upward to a deck on which crew quarters were located. Five crewmembers died from smoke inhalation, and 55 crewmembers and 1 passenger sustained minor or serious injuries. One passenger required medical treatment as a result of a pre-existing condition. Sixty-nine people were transported to area hospitals, where 13 of the injured were admitted for further treatment. The estimated damage to the vessel was $1.5 million.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a lack of effective oversight by New Commodore Cruise Lines, Ltd., and the predecessor of V. Ships Marine, Ltd. (International
Marine Carriers, Inc.), who allowed physical conditions and operating procedures to exist that compromised the fire safety of the Universe Explorer, ultimately resulting in crewmember deaths and injuries from a fire of undetermined origin in the vessel’s main laundry. Contributing to the loss of life and injuries was the lack of sprinkler systems, the lack of automatic local sounding fire alarms, and the rapid spread of smoke through open doors into the crew berthing area.

Accident Location: Juneau , AK   Lynn Canal
Accident Date: 7/27/1996
Accident ID: DCA96MM037

Date Adopted: 4/14/1998
NTSB Number: MAR-98-02
NTIS Number: PB98-916402