Human Error Blamed for Fatal Norman Alantic Ferry Fire

Smoke billows from the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

ATHENS. Investigators said a line of safety violations were the cause of a deadly fire on the Norman Atlantic ferry boat in December, 2014.

Eleven people were killed in the fire on the ferry that was sailing from Greece to Italy and was caught in a combination of flames and surging waves during heavy seas that made rescues difficult.

Passengers were caught between the fire and the seas. A 650-page report from an Italian team also said there were an unknown number of stowaways who likely died as refugees and migrants sneak onto ferry boats from the Greek port of Patra where the investigators said the chain of human mistakes began.

The ship was Italian-managed. The probe found that at a second stop, at Igoumenitsa, trucks were loaded haphazardly on the car deck and refrigerated trucks were plugged into the central circuit by a junior trainee instead of the ship’s chief electrician although no reason was cited.

After the fire started on Car Deck 4, at least two members of the crew failed to take the first signs of smoke seriously, the experts found, and one engineer failed to notify the bridge after smoke entered the engine room.

The crew’s response after the fire spread is described as “chaotic.” It failed to direct panic-stricken passengers according to basic safety procedures or to make effective use of lifeboats and the escape chute.

“The entire emergency management system… shows obvious and inherent defects that also point to a high possibility of human error,” the report says.