BOAT AC­CI­DENT:

Only mi­nor in­juries when cruise ship rips up 60 feet of dock at Hen­der­son’s Wharf

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Pru­dente and Sean Welsh tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

The Spirit of Bal­ti­more cruise ship sheared off about 60 feet of a pier in Fells Point as it was re­turn­ing af­ter a party cruise. Only mi­nor in­juries were re­ported.

A Spirit of Bal­ti­more cruise ship sheared off about 60 feet of a pier in Fells Point as it was re­turn­ing to its berth Sun­day, the Coast Guard said.

More than 400 guests and crew were aboard the In­ner Har­bor cruise ship for a mid­night soiree with DJs, danc­ing and cock­tails called an “All Linen Af­fair.”

Twoguests were hos­pi­tal­ized with mi­nor in­juries and re­leased, Spirit Cruises said in a state­ment.

“Spirit Cruises takes the safety of our pas­sen­gers, com­mu­nity and ship­mates very se­ri­ously. The com­pany is con­duct­ing a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion and co­op­er­at­ing fully with the United States Coast Guard,” the state­ment said.

Ken­neth Barner was on board the Spirit of Bal­ti­more dur­ing the col­li­sion.

“You felt a stuttering, like some grind­ing, then you looked and you saw wood fly­ing up in the air,” the New Jersey man said.

He won­dered, “What is that?” and rushed to the rear of the ship.

“We were pulling away and like the whole dock was tore up,” he said. “You hear some guy on the dock start curs­ing.”

The crash at Hen­der­son’s Wharf Ma­rina woke Mike Swank, who lives aboard his boat be­side the ma­rina.

“I was sound asleep and I heard a crunch­ing,” he said.

The cause of the col­li­sion re­mained un­known. Coast Guard of­fi­cials were in­ves­ti­gat­ing, in­ter­view­ing the crew and per­form­ing rou­tine drug and al­co­hol tests on the cap­tain, said Petty Of­fi­cer 2nd Class Barry Bena.

The cap­tain has been sus­pended pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Spirit Cruises said in the state­ment. The com­pany did not iden­tify the cap­tain.

The pier was taped off Sun­day af­ter­noon and a ma­rina em­ployee worked over the bro­ken planks. Staff at Hen­der­son’s Wharf de­clined to dis­cuss the in­ci­dent.

Two wa­ter­craft at the ma­rina were scraped af­ter the cruise ship veered off course. The Spirit of Bal­ti­more suf­fered only cos­metic dam­age and In­ner Har­bor tours continued Sun­day.

The cruise ships of­fer oc­ca­sional moon­light tours from mid­night to 2 a.m. with a “night­club at­mos­phere,” ac­cord­ing to the Spirit of Bal­ti­more web­site. Guests must be 21 or older.

Early Sun­day, the ship was re­turn­ing to its berth when it crashed, said Barner, the pas­sen­ger. Coast Guard of­fi­cials said it hap­pened some time be­fore 3 a.m.

The sud­den col­li­sion sur­prised those aboard, many of whom were cel­e­brat­ing birth­days. Guests paid $55 and were asked to wear linen, any color.

“We didn’t even re­al­ize we were that close to the dock,” Barner said, and the ship continued on. “We were all like, ‘Aren’t we sup­posed to stop?”

TIM PRU­DENTE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

A dam­aged pier at Hen­der­son’s Wharf Ma­rina was taped off Sun­day af­ter­noon. An In­ner Har­bor cruise ship, the Spirit of Bal­ti­more, struck the pier early Sun­day.

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