Autopilot caused cruise ship crash, Coast Guard says

By Mia Penta

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Autopilot failure caused the jarring turn of a cruise ship that sent plates and glassware crashing and injured more than 70 people, the Coast Guard said.

The autopilot on the 853-foot Norwegian Sky malfunctioned Saturday near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the rudders swung and turned the ship hard to the left when a crew member switched to manual controls, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Scott Casad said at a news conference Sunday.

“It was like the Titanic. People were flying around in chairs. The gift shop was destroyed,” said Sharon Suttle, a travel-consultant manager from Greensboro, N.C., in an interview at the dock in Seattle. “I was afraid for my life. It was scary.”

A total of 78 people reported injuries, and 13 were treated Saturday when the ship docked in Victoria, British Columbia, for a four-hour shore visit, Casad said.

Two passengers stayed in Victoria for precautionary medical care, but all others boarded the ship to Seattle on Saturday evening as scheduled, the cruise line said. One other person was treated Sunday in Seattle, Casad said.

The autopilot malfunction appeared to have been caused by a computer error, Casad said.

The Coast Guard cleared the vessel to resume operations but ordered that the autopilot not be used, he said. Coast Guard investigators will continue trying to determine if the injuries could have been prevented and if the ship should have been using autopilot in that area.

The ship left Seattle for Alaska on another cruise shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday.

Terry Gallagher, spokesman for Norwegian Cruise Line, said he had no additional details Sunday afternoon.

The 2,975 passengers and crew aboard the ship, based in Seattle and registered in the Bahamas, had been at sea since May 13, Mother’s Day. The eight-day cruise included stops at Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay in southeast Alaska before heading south, Port of Seattle spokesman Doug Williams said.

The mishap occurred near the mouth of the strait that links Puget Sound with the Pacific Ocean, extending inland between Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula and Canada’s Vancouver Island.

“We were in the dining room, and all the dishes were falling around us. The ship sort of righted itself, then it happened again and everything fell off the table. It really felt like it was going to tip over,” said Alice Crady, 71, of Tampa, Fla. who was on the cruise with her husband.

“We had just finished lunch, and we heard a grinding noise and everything started tilting,” said Judy Fields, 55, of La Grange, N.C., who works in education.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.