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Leak Caused Fire Which Disabled Carnival Triumph

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Crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship as it is towed to port in Alabama on Thursday Feb. 14, 2013. (Source: CNN)

Crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship as it is towed to port in Alabama on Thursday Feb. 14, 2013. (Source: CNN)

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cheap eats 300x225aa Leak Caused Fire Which Disabled Carnival Triumph

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – A leak in a fuel oil line caused the engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard said Monday they will try to learn more about the cause, the crew’s response, and why the ship was disabled for so long.

Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines said in an email Monday that the company agreed with the Coast Guard’s findings about the fire’s source.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield said the Bahamas, where the ship is registered, is leading the investigation, with the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board representing U.S. interests in the probe. She estimated that the investigation of the disabled ship would take six months.

Hatfield said investigators have been with the massive 14-story vessel since it arrived Thursday in Mobile, Ala. They have interviewed passengers and crew, and forensic analysis has been performed on the ship.

She said the crew responded appropriately to the fire. “They did a very good job,” she said.

In an email after Monday’s conference call, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz described the oil return line that leaked as stretching from the ship’s No. 6 engine to the fuel tank.

Cruise industry expert Andrew Coggins, a former Navy commander who was a chief engineer and is now a professor at Pace University in New York, said the fire could potentially have been serious.

“The problem is the oil’s under pressure,” he said. “What happens in the case of a fuel oil leak where you have a fire like that is it leaks in such a way that it sprays out in a mist. In the engine room you have many hot surfaces, so once the mist hits a hot surface it will flash into flame.”

If the crew hadn’t reacted quickly and the fire suppression system hadn’t worked properly, he said, “the fire from the engine room would have eventually burned through to other parts of the ship.” Engine room fires that can’t be suppressed generally result in the loss of the entire ship, he said.

The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day trip to Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship early Feb. 10, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed it to Mobile. Passengers described harsh conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for food, foul odors and tent cities for sleeping on deck.

Hatfield said investigators from the Coast Guard and NTSB would stay with the ship until about the end of the week, then continue work at their respective offices. She said the investigation will look further at the cause of the fire and the crew’s response, as well as why the ship was disabled for so long.

Last week, a team of six NTSB investigators were in Mobile trying to determine the cause of the fire. An NTSB spokesman said then that the agency could take information developed from the probe and use it to make recommendations for improving cruise ship safety.

Passengers interviewed after the cruise complained about confusion in the immediate aftermath of the fire about whether to evacuate their rooms as well as poor communication about what was happening.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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