Five die in cruise ship evacuation accident in Santa Cruz de la Palma

Crew members were in lifeboat as cables snapped during routine drill

Santa Cruz de Tenerife - 10 feb 2013 - 19:22 UTC
Rescue teams at the site of the tragedy on Sunday.
Rescue teams at the site of the tragedy on Sunday. Carlos Aciego / EFE

Five people died and three others were seriously injured on Sunday during an emergency drill on a cruise ship that was anchored in the port of Santa Cruz de La Palma in the Canary Islands.

The victims were all crew members of the Thomson Majesty, who were demonstrating how to evacuate the ship safely in the event of an emergency. For reasons that remain unclear, the capstan holding up the lifeboat in which they were sitting malfunctioned and the cables snapped, sending the small vessel into a 20-meter freefall. The boat reportedly landed upside down.

Five sailors died on impact, while two others sustained serious injuries. Another crewmember was left with light injuries. The casualties were nationals of Indonesia, the Philippines and Ghana. The injured crew are two Greeks and one Filipino.

Around 2,000 passengers were aboard the cruise ship, which is operated by the British tourism group TUI and flies a Maltese flag. No passengers were involved in the incident.

The city of Santa Cruz de La Palma decided to cancel all carnival-related events that had been planned for Sunday following the accident. Monday's activities were due to proceed as planned, however. Local authorities announced a small funeral ceremony at the harbor with flowers to remember the victims of Sunday's accident.

Following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the International Maritime Organization developed the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, which regulates all aspects of maritime safety for merchant and cruise ships. These rules establish that all ships must conduct an emergency drill on the first day of the cruise, before leaving port, with all the passengers on board.

The Costa Concordia disaster in January, 2012 led the European Commission to propose new safety measures for cruise ships in Europe that are expected to be introduced this year.