‘Blood Everywhere’: Cruise Ship Tilted By Freak 115-MPH Wind Gust, Passengers Injured
“I kept thinking it can’t possibly keep tipping, and it kept tipping,” a passenger said.
A 4,200-passenger cruise ship was unexpectedly rocked by an "extreme" 115-mph wind gust off the mid-Atlantic coast late Sunday night, Norwegian Cruise Lines has confirmed, sending the massive vessel into a dangerous list and injuring multiple passengers.
The Breakaway-plus class Norwegian Escape set sail from New York City on Sunday afternoon on a seven-day round-trip voyage to the Bahamas with a stop in Florida along the way. Just hours into its trip, the usual cacophony of chirping slot machines and clattering buffet trays was pierced by screams when a freak wind gust slammed into the ship's starboard side and tilted it at least 20 degrees.
Videos recorded by terrified passengers show people hanging onto whatever solid item they can as tables and chairs slide down the sloping floor. The air is filled with the sounds of glass and furniture breaking, soon joined by the cries of the injured as the ship slowly rights itself after a few minutes of sheer panic.
The exact number of injuries hasn't been confirmed; Florida Today reports a "string" of ambulances met the Norwegian Escape when it arrived in Port Canaveral on Tuesday and transported at least eight people to a local hospital. Social media posts from passengers describe everything from cuts and bruises to broken bones and panic attacks.
"I kept thinking it can’t possibly keep tipping, and it kept tipping. Everything in our room falling and sliding...I have never been so scared in my whole life," passenger Samantha Foster told Crew Center. "Even the cruise director when we came on right after the tilting started, his voice was shaking and he could barely speak. All the plates and glassware smashed on the floor. A lotto machine fell on a lady. Blood everywhere."
"My goodness, we heard glass crash and all the noise. Then from there, the boat started listing even more—and that's when the panic hit," another passenger told Florida Today. "We were looking for the life preservers. And I was looking to jump out the window and jump on the nearest thing around."
In a statement on Twitter, Norwegian Cruise Lines acknowledged the incident and an unspecified number of injuries, but it said the ship itself was undamaged and will continue on its voyage as scheduled. The freak wind gust, rare but not unheard of, was reportedly spawned by the same powerful storm system that generated deadly tornados in Alabama earlier that day.
These super-sized vessels are slightly top-heavy, but not enough to actually capsize in a situation like this. In addition to having advanced, computer-controlled ballast systems, the center of gravity is simply too low thanks to all the heavy mechanical systems lying at and below the waterline. There has never been a case of wind alone taking out a ship of this size, which admittedly offers little comfort when your stateroom is tilted at a 40-degree angle.
The Norwegian Escape isn't the only cruise ship out to run into dangerously bad weather off the Atlantic coast in recent years—a rollicking winter storm trashed the interior of a Royal Caribbean boat in 2016 in roughly the same area. Though no passengers were injured in that instance, the damage was bad enough that the Anthem of the Seas had to return to port. Hey, sure beats norovirus.