Atlanta: Investigators say a fuel oil leak caused the engine-room fire that paralyzed a Carnival cruise ship at sea for five days. Now they want to know why the ship was disabled for so long.
The Carnival Triumph left 4,200 people without power or working toilets for five days as it drifted in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield of the US Coast Guard addressed the finding in a conference call yesterday with reporters. She estimated the investigation of the disabled ship would take six months.
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.
Hatfield said the Bahamas -- where the ship is registered, or flagged -- is leading the investigation, with the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board representing US interests in the probe. The vessel was in international waters at the time.
Investigators have been with the massive 14-story ship since it arrived Thursday in Mobile, Ala. They have interviewed passengers and crew, and done a forensic analysis on the ship.
She said the crew responded appropriately to the fire. "They did a very good job," she said.
In an email after yesterday`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 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."