What Triggered The Cruise Ship Fire?

The Carnival Splendor cruise ship is towed to San Diego Harbor by tug boats.

The Carnival Splendor cruise ship is towed to San Diego Harbor by tug boats. Kevork Djansezian/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Now that the Carnival Splendor passengers and crew are safely in port, the National Transportation Safety Board says the Panama's Maritime Authority will try to find out what happened to the cruise ship this week; Panama is taking the lead because the vessel is registered there. The AP reports the U.S. Coast Guard will contribute investigators. Carnival says there was a fire in the aft engine room on Monday that was put out and nobody was hurt. But what started the blaze?

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill says a crankcase covering one of six diesel engines 'split', but didn't elaborate further. USA Today wonders if a flaw in the diesel engine could have played a role, citing an engineer who's wondering why the Splendor lost control.

Clark Dodge, former chief engineer for Washington State Ferries, said large passenger vessels are designed to ensure that such a fire doesn't cause a loss of all power. An engine-room fire and damage to a generator and a switchboard shouldn't shut down other generators and engines, he said.

'What happened makes no sense to me,' said Dodge, a consultant. 'If things were designed properly, all the power shouldn't have gone out.'

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