Fire extinguished on Carnival Freedom cruise ship after witnesses reported possible lightning strike


Heath Barnes opened his book on the upper decks of the Bahamas-bound Carnival Freedom cruise ship in between bouts of rain.

But his relaxation Saturday afternoon was suddenly stolen with “the loudest thunder and lightning I have ever heard,” he told CNN.

Barnes, of Woodsboro, Maryland, went back inside and minutes later learned from his nephew and his nephew’s two friends, all 16, the ship was on fire.

“I thought they were giving me a hard time, but I got up and went out on the balcony and sure enough, the flames and smoke was pouring out of the tail,” said Barnes, who shared footage of the incident with CNN.

Cruise ship officials reported the fire broke out on the port side of the ship’s exhaust funnel around 3:15 p.m. local time, according to a news release from Carnival Cruise Line.

Witnesses reported the ship may have been struck by lightning, but that has not been confirmed and the cause is still being investigated, according to the cruise line.

As the ship’s fire response team worked to extinguish the blaze, the cruise’s captain turned the ship toward an area of heavy rain to help put out the flames, the release states.

The fire appeared to be extinguished about two hours after it ignited. There were no reported injuries to guests, but two firefighting crew members were treated for minor smoke inhalation, according to the cruise line.

The port side portion of the exhaust funnel fell onto deck 10 of the ship as a result of the fire, according to Carnival.

The ship was about 20 miles off Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, when the fire broke out. The blaze started as the ship headed to Freeport, the release said.

The cruise line said passengers were able to attend dinner as planned Saturday night and all areas of the ship were fully functioning as of Sunday, except for the open decks.

The ship visited Freeport on Sunday, Carnival said, adding there were no operational issues with the ship’s systems. “Carnival does not expect any impact to the next Carnival Freedom voyage scheduled to depart from Port Canaveral on Monday, March 25,” the release states.

The US Coast Guard has been notified about the incident.

Barnes said after the fire broke out, passengers were told to remain in their cabins until about 5:40 p.m.

This was his 18th Carnival Cruise trip.

“This was the most interesting one,” he said. “It’s not their fault, it’s Mother Nature.”

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