A Carnival cruise ship hit a massive storm last week en route from the Bahamas to Charleston, South Carolina. A storm flooded the lower four stories of the ship, causing panic among passengers and making national headlines as the ship collided and overturned at night.
Brian Life, 47, of Belmont, was on board the Carnival Sunshine when the incident happened.
Rife details the events of the storm, which began at midnight on Friday, May 26, and lasted until the morning of Saturday, May 26.
Friday, 3pm to 3:30pm
Mr. Rife was standing on the Serenity Deck on the 10th floor when an intercom rang telling passengers to evacuate the higher deck levels as the ship was heading into bad weather.
At this point, Rife said the skies were clear and blue with no signs of inclement weather. Within an hour of this message, the water was getting rougher.
The boat began to rock more violently. She remembers hearing other passengers complain of nausea as Mr. Rife and her husband, Mr. Shane Elks, were walking down the hallway. Her Mr Rife added that her own spouse was a little seasick.
4pm to 8pm
Somewhere in this time frame, Rife and Elks went out on deck to check the sky and water conditions.
“It was a different day and night,” Rife said. The sky near their position on the ship was deep blue. Beyond that was the Wall of Darkness.
Despite the looming eerie weather, Rife said he wasn’t too worried at the time.
At this point the wind was howling outside the balcony door. The weather information displayed on the television showed that the wind speed was rising and falling rapidly. Rife said winds could reach 80 miles per hour at times.
Around 10:45 p.m., the ship was hit by a huge wave, and Mr. Rife was thrown out of bed. I could hear other passengers screaming and things breaking. Rife can’t remember exactly how long the ship stayed in this tilted position, but he said it “felt like an eternity.”
While the ship was still in this sideways position, he grabbed life jackets for himself and Elks.
“I thought I was going to capsize,” he said.
Rife and her husband left the room to find the other half of the party. He remembers shattered glass strewn around him, a passenger trapped in an elevator, and another thrown out of a wheelchair damaged by the impact.
11:30pm – 5:00am
For the rest of the night and into Saturday morning, Mr. Rife and Mr. Elks stayed in their room. The water was still turbulent and rain poured through the ceiling of the balcony door, but the ship did not hit again with much force, Rife said.
Rife recalled that the intercom finally rang after 6:15 a.m., after a period of silence from the crew throughout the night. The Carnival Sunshine docked around 5:00 pm and passengers disembarked about an hour later.
Rife said he plans to make three more cruises during hurricane season and will continue to do so in the future.
“We can’t control the weather,” Rife said, but crew members would communicate with passengers during the storm or call them to stay in place and wait for the storm to pass before heading to their destination. He said he wished that he could have even been able to hang up. Charleston.