PORT CANAVERAL, Florida – A steering problem caused a new cruise ship to roll abruptly Tuesday, throwing passengers and crew to the deck and injuring dozens, including two critically, officials said.
One passenger said seawater flooded several upper decks of the Crown Princess, forcing water from a swimming pool "like a mini-tsunami," and breaking windows and furniture.
The vessel, with about 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew, had just departed Port Canaveral on Florida's east coast en route to New York when it listed badly to its left side, said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer James Judge. He said the ship reported problems with its steering apparatus.
The ship then righted itself before returning to port, where the Coast Guard said all passengers and crew had been accounted for.
Besides an adult and a child who were critically hurt, 12 people were seriously hurt and about 70 had lesser injuries, said Cape Canaveral Fire Rescue Capt. Jim Watson.
Thirty-three people were taken to hospitals, he said. Most had bruises and minor back and neck injures.
Tom Daus, 32, was sunbathing on the ship's upper deck when the ship began to list.
"It became very disastrous because ... tables, glasses, lounge chairs went flying," he told The Associated Press in a cell phone interview. "I was just holding on for dear life onto the banister of the ship."
Daus, of New York City, said several of the upper decks were flooded and the elevators were inoperable. Gym equipment flipped over, TVs fell off their shelves and shattered glass was strewn across the deck, he said.
"The water came gushing out of the pool like a mini-tsunami," he said. "It was really scary. People who were in the pool were shoved out."
Daus said most of the injured he saw were senior citizens being taken out on wheelchairs or stretchers. The remaining passengers were mostly calm, despite the chaos, he said.
Bonnie Storie, 50, of Rochester, N.Y., was traveling with her husband and teenage son. "It felt like (the ship) was going to fall over," she said. "It was shocking."
Chris Broadbent, a 33-year-old honeymooner from New York City, said Tuesday night's movie on the ship was supposed to be "Titanic."
Stan Payne, CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority, said the cruise line wanted passengers to wait until other lodging could be arranged, but were free to leave the vessel if they wanted. He said the ship would remain in port for several days.
Princess Cruises, one of 12 brands operated by Miami-based Carnival Corp., said it was investigating the cause of the incident.
Before leaving Port Canaveral, the ship has just completed a nine-day Western Caribbean cruise, she said. The 113,000-ton ship began sailing a month ago and was making its fourth voyage.
"We deeply regret this incident, and are doing everything we can to make our passengers as comfortable as possible under these difficult circumstances," company spokeswoman Julie Benson said.
Martha Stewart christened the Crown Princess last month before it embarked on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean from its home terminal in the New York borough of Brooklyn.