Today in fire history: a fire onboard a cruise ship resulted in two fatalities and fifty-seven injuries

Blog Post created by paulalevesque Employee on Aug 20, 2014

On August 20, 1984, a fire onboard the Cruise ship M/V SCANDINAVIAN SUN, while docking at the Port of Miami, resulted in two fatalities and fifty-seven injuries among passengers, crew and City of Miami fire fighters.  The rapidly spreading fire forced many of the passengers, who were in the process of disembarking, to remain on board until the fire was extinguished.  The fatalities, one passenger and one crew member, were eventually found in their cabins during the search of the ship.

The fire was discovered just after the ship had completed docking.  The fire, which originated in the auxiliary engine room, was caused by the ignition of atomized lubricating oil leaking from a diesel engine driving one of the ship's generators.

Products of combustion were able to extend vertically six decks above the main engine and auxiliary machine rooms by way of a ladder access way and through an open passageway and watertight doors.  Doors leading to passageways on several of the upper decks were also open during the initial stages of the fire which allowed dense smoke and heat to extend horizontally into crew and passenger cabin areas.

The spread of fire and heavy smoke conditions were mainly confined to the port side of the ship, although starboard side portions of the cruise ship were also affected.

The following are considered to major factors contributing to the loss of life in this fire:

  •     The failure to extinguish the fire in its incipient stage by either automatic

            of manual means.

   •     The rapid and intense flash fire resulting from the ignition of a combustible

            lubricating oil.

   •     The rapid horizontal and vertical spread of products of combustion throughout

            the ship caused mainly  by  open fire doors.

    •     The presence of combustible interior finish materials in passageways and

            in the stair tower.   

For more information on this fire NFPA Fire Investigations