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Three Missing After Cruise Ship Slices Cuban Freighter

February 11, 1989

MIAMI (AP) _ Three Cuban crewmen were missing Friday and 13 others injured after their darkened, drifting cargo vessel was sliced in two by a cruise liner off the coast of Cuba, shipping and Coast Guard officials said.

None of the 1,500 vacationing passengers and 600 crew members aboard the Miami-based Celebration were injured in the pre-dawn collision, which caused only minor damage to the liner’s port bow, said Carnival Cruise Line spokeswoman Joy Cadieu.

The 734-foot Celebration rescued 42 of the 45 crew members aboard the Cuban cement hauler Capitan San Luis, including one whose foot was severed in the accident.

″In an interview with the captain of the cruise ship, the second officer aboard the Cuban freighter said that the Cuban vessel had been experiencing electrical problems,″ Carnival spokesman Tim Gallagher said. ″The electrical problem left the Cuban vessel without navigational lights or steering.″

A Cuban navy frigate and tug picked up the 42 rescued crew members Friday, the Coast Guard said. Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency later reported that the injured passengers were being treated at the Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba Hospital in Moa, Cuba.

″Basically, we’ve relinquished our search and rescue responsibilities to Cuba,″ said Coast Guard spokesman Daniel White.

The three missing men were apparently in a cabin at the stern of the 350- foot freighter, which sank when the Celebration sliced it in two, said Luis Diaz, another Coast Guard spokesman. The bow section floated for hours before sinking at about 10 a.m.

The three missing crewmen included the ship’s Capt. Manuel Velazco Morales, 34, along with Antonio Campos de los Reyes, 41, and Ivan Freyre Diaz, 40, all of Havana, Prensa Latina reported.

The freighter was en route from Havana to the Canary Islands at the time of the collision, the agency said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and Falcon jet had searched the site Friday morning and cutters were on the way when the Cubans said they would take over the rescue.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said they want to investigate the incident even though it involved a Liberian-registered cruise liner and a Cuban freighter.

″We don’t have jurisdiction, but we are expecting that Carnival Cruise Lines will grant us permission to go aboard when the ship arrives Saturday,″ said spokesman Michael Benson in Washington. ″We want to look at the ship and talk in particular to the crew on the bridge at the time.″

The transportation board has conducted a series of hearings in Miami on cruise line safety.

Ms. Cadieu said the cruise line and their insurer, Lloyd’s of London, also would conduct their own probe.

The collision occurred in heavily traveled shipping lanes only 20 miles off Punta Guarico near the eastern tip of Cuba.

Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Karonis said there was no information yet on whether the accident caused a major oil spill but said it was likely fuel tanks were split aboard the Capitan San Luis when it was cut in half.

The Celebration, which Ms. Cadieu said has the world’s largest floating casino, was on its way back to Miami after a seven-day cruise that included stops at San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and St. Martin. It was expected to return Saturday.

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