Prinsendam Cruise Ship Fire, Holland America Line Fire near Yakutat, Alaska –
October 4, 1980 fire broke out on the Prinsendam 120 miles south of Yakutat, Alaska around midnight. There were 520 passengers and crew members aboard her when the fire began in the engine room during rough seas and Gale Force winds.
An hour later the captain said the fire was out of control and he sent out the distress call. Coast guard and commercial vessels began responding as the gale force winds whipped the flames aboad the stricken ship.
By 0630 hours, the captain made the decision to evacuate the 470 passengers, many of the elderly, and they began filling the lifeboats.
The 1000-foot supertanker, Williamsburgh responded to the scene, and began taking on passengers who were being plucked from their lifeboats by a HH-3 coast guard helicopter. Many of those in lifeboats were injured and were later transfered to hospitals in Sitka, Alaska.
There were 15 passengers and 25 crew still aboard the ship who had not made it to lifeboats. The remaining crew had stayed aboard to fight the fire and act that proved fruitless in the end. There were finally evacuated as well.
During the rescue, one lifeboats was missing in the darkness of night. The next afternoon a flare set off by the occupants of the drifting lifeboat was seen by rescuers and the 20 passengers were rescued.
On October 11, 1980 the ship listing severely, finally sunk. The ill-fated Prinsendam had fire doors but they did not prevent the flames from spreading and there were no sprinklers aboard which also contributed to the inability of the crew to fight the fire.
This was the second fire aboard Prinsendam in seven years, the first fire taking place while she was still being built.
Holland America Lines acquired the Seabourn Sun in 2002 and renamed her Prinsendam when they launched her in 2004.