NTSB finds poor maintenance as probable cause of Caribbean Fantasy fire
SAN JUAN — The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday the probable cause of the Aug. 17, 2016, engine-room fire aboard the Caribbean Fantasy was due to poor maintenance.
The vessel was used for ferry service between Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Mayagüez and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it burned about 2 miles offshore.
The board determined that vessel operator Baja Ferries, under charter agreement by America Cruise Ferries, failed to properly maintain the vessel and provide safety training, and that “the evacuation of the ship took 3 hours and 43 minutes, rather than the goal of 30 minutes, according to investigators,” USA Today reported.
In his statement, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that “safety leadership and safety culture were ineffective at this company, which struggled just to maintain safety compliance—the floor, not the goal, for an operator in transportation.”
He stressed in a tweet that the Caribbean Fantasy “had been detained 3 times in the years immediately before the fire, yet no red flags went up. The record continued to accumulate, seemingly without anybody recognizing that one day, something was likely to go very wrong.”
NTSB Chairman Sumwalt: "The Caribbean Fantasy had been detained 3 times in the years immediately before the fire, yet no red flags went up."
— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) June 5, 2018
According to the NTSB, the fire began in the main engine room of the 614-foot long, Panamanian-flagged vessel, “when fuel spraying from a leaking flange contacted the hot surface of the port main engine. The fire could not be contained, and the master ordered abandon ship.
“The fire burned for three days while the vessel…drifted and subsequently grounded near the port of San Juan. The fire was extinguished by shore-based firefighters after the Caribbean Fantasy was towed into the harbor,” the agency wrote.
The accident resulted in an estimated $20 million in damage and the Caribbean Fantasy was eventually scrapped.