Cruise ship lifeboat accident kills five crewmembers in Spain

A lifeboat being used on a safety drill aboard the Thomson Cruises’ cruise Vessel Thomson Majesty in Spain’s Canary Islands fell about 65 feet into a port on Sunday when a cable snapped, trapping crew members beneath it. Five crewmembers were killed in the accident and three more were injured. None of the hundreds of passengers aboard the British-operated vessel were involved in the accident.

Divers raced to the lifeboat, which had hit the water upside down, recovering four bodies and trying without success to revive a fifth crewman who had stopped breathing. The three injured crew members were taken by ambulance to a hospital in La Palma, and are said to be not badly hurt.

The ship docked at the island’s port of Santa Cruz in the morning, after arriving there from the neighboring island of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It was due to depart at 3 p.m. for Funchal on the mid-Atlantic island of Madeira with 1,498 passengers and 594 crew aboard.

At 10:30 a.m. a drill consisting of lowering a lifeboat with crew members aboard began. About an hour later, when the lifeboat was being hoisted back up to the deck, a cable holding it snapped and a hook holding the lifeboat on a second cable gave way, sending the lifeboat plunging into the port upside down.

An alarm was sounded and port authorities were alerted. The captain of the cruise ship called for the divers who arrived at the capsized lifeboat.

Passengers onboard the ship have been posting their condolences to the crewmembers on Thomson’s Facebook page. They have also been expressing concerns about the lifeboat out of action and asking for safety tests to be carried out on the cables holding the others:

One passenger writes:

“We are on the ship and understand that the captain is contemplating continuing the cruise taking life boat 10 out of service as well, thus 2 lifeboats down. Very concerned as if a lifeboat with capacity of over 150 persons fails with 8 persons on board how can they be safe!!! Every cable needs to be unwound and checked by an expert first. Safety first please, learn by our mistakes. RIP to the crew involved.”

Thomson responded to the above passenger saying that the second lifeboat was being taken out of service due to maritime law requiring symmetrical life boats, and that all of the lifeboats and their launching apparatus would be checked by the ship’s staff and by investigators. It is not currently clear when the Thomson Majesty will be allowed to leave port.

Thomson Majesty is currently stationed in the Canaries, where it sails week-long cruises that visit La Gomera, Fuerteventura and Tenerife, among other ports.