Friday, May 18, 2007
A New Jersey woman testified that she still gets nightmares about an April 2005 cruise that was slammed by heavy seas for hours and eventually struck by a 70-foot wave. "It's always about water," said Sandra Krahling, a passenger on the Norwegian Dawn cruise from Miami to New York. "I just remember seeing propellers coming out of the water. I open doors and there's water coming in." Krahling is one of four people suing Norwegian Cruise Line for emotional damage from the cruise, which was forced to divert to Charleston, S.C., after windows broke, flooding 62 cabins. The suit filed by Miami lawyer Brett Rivkind alleges Norwegian recklessly tried to sail through the storm to tape an appearance on the Donald Trump show The Apprentice, for which it had agreed to pay $800,000. "NCL's choices ended up risking the lives and safety of those passengers," Rivkind told jurors. Attorneys for the cruise line said that the ship's course was reasonable given the weather forecasts and that of 2,200 passengers only four were injured. They contend that no one had lasting psychological trauma. "At some point people were scared and uncomfortable. But then it was over," attorney Curtis Mase said.Krahling said the weather gradually worsened on Friday, April 15, 2005, as the ship tried to make a 5 a.m. Sunday arrival in New York. "The ship started to feel and sound like it was twisted," said Krahling, who testified she was thrown across a dining-room table by the force of one wave and later jolted out of bed onto the floor by another. She made her way to the atrium of the ship, where many passengers had gathered. "I just stayed there because I was so terrified," she said. Around 6:10 a.m. on Saturday, a wave estimated at 60 to 70 feet struck the ninth and 10th decks of the 13-story ship, prompting panic among the passengers, Krahling said. "They weren't just talking, they weren't hollering, they were screaming for life because they were so terrified." Krahling said the captain told passengers moments later over the public address system that the ship was OK, but rather than talking, as in previous announcements, he was yelling. "Then I knew we were going to die," she said. After the cruise, Krahling said she was out of sorts for weeks. "I was just scrambled. I couldn't get myself together," she said. Krahling testified that she still gets anxious talking about the cruise or watching television shows about boats. But questioned by NCL attorneys, she said she had no physical injuries from the cruise and did not see a psychologist or psychiatrist afterward, other than the expert ones hired in preparation for the lawsuit. A National Transportation Safety Board report concluded that damage sustained by the ship did not pose a serious safety hazard. The trial before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Miami is expected to take about three weeks.