Columbus couple back home safely after cruise ship fire

Published 8:56 am Friday, September 30, 2011

Joy Johnson and her husband, Norman, stood on the deck of the Norwegian cruise ship Nordlys Thursday, Sept. 15 taking in scenery of the area.
As the two snapped a few photos, smoke and flames suddenly interrupted their view.
An explosion in the engine room of the ship had sparked a fire not 24 hours after the couple had boarded.
“It was quite an adventure,” Joy said of throwing on life jackets and working to get everyone into limited numbers of available lifeboats.
“Still, I don’t think any of us were overly concerned,” Joy said. “We did have to don the lifejackets, which were very peculiar because they were made for frigid water, but everyone remained calm.”
More than 250 passengers, including the Johnsons, were evacuated from the burning ship.
Joy said Norman and several others worked together to get a handful of disabled passengers safely into the lifeboats.
The real tragedy, Joy later discovered, was that two crewmembers had died in the accident; one of them an 18-year-old apprentice on his first voyage.
“It was really a very sad thing and we consider ourselves very lucky,” she said. “It has curbed my appetite for cruising now, though.”
Joy said the staff of the ship handled the event very well – getting passengers quickly to shore and into hotels.
“They were just amazing,” Joy said. “They had buses waiting and navy doctors on hand to ensure everyone had prescriptions they needed and such.”
Joy said to further the good fortune of the passengers, the ship was not far from the shore of Alesund, where a disaster drill was taking place that very day. Joy said the workers knew exactly what to do.
She said she would no longer be flippant about safety drills.
“You know you take these things for granted. Now I realize how important it is to take advantage of the information they give you in the safety drills,” she said.
If anything, Joy said she and her husband did make a lot of new friends out of the comraderie of the situation.
The Johnsons returned home Tuesday, Sept. 20, and while they still have seen no sign of their possessions, they said they are thrilled to be safely back in Polk County.

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