Chinese crewman crushed by door on cruise ship

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A massive hydraulic door crushed a crewman to death aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Sky early Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The door that killed Jan Ming Dai, 49, of Shanghai, China, was big enough to drive a fork-lift through, said Petty Officer Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. The death occurred as the 853-foot ship approached Haines.

Such watertight doors are designed to seal off sections of the ship in the event of fire or flooding. However, the doors are also engineered to close slowly, in part to prevent anyone from getting caught, Wilson said.

''When the doors are functioning properly they will not close any faster than 20 seconds nor any longer than 40 seconds,'' Wilson said. ''They also have a very loud alarm and a very bright flashing strobe light.''

Although the death was reported as an accident, an Alaska State Trooper boarded the ship to determine how the victim became caught in such a slow-moving mechanism.

''He didn't want to just write this off as accidental,'' said Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the troopers. Wilkinson said he hadn't heard back from the investigator yet. ''We don't know of any suspicious circumstances at this time.''

A spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line read a brief prepared statement and refused to comment further.

''NCL is cooperating fully with all local authorities and deeply regrets this sad occurrence,'' said Fran Sevcik, a corporate spokeswoman in Miami.

The Coast Guard also sent an investigator to reconstruct the events leading up to the death and examine the door, Wilson said.

''We want to make sure that all the alarms and safety mechanisms that are associated with that door are operating possibly,'' Wilson said. ''We just want to find out the cause of the incident so that we can insure that this doesn't happen again.''

Wilson said such doors can be operated from the ship's bridge and with a lever near the door itself. The lever operates as a ''dead man switch,'' Wilson said, meaning the door only closes as long as someone holds down the handle.

Wilson wouldn't speculate on why such a door would be closed, but said doors are closed during some shipboard drills.

The Norwegian Sky is the newest of the line's ships, commissioned in 1999. It has a crew of 750 and can carry more than 2,000 passengers.

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