Trained Crew Saved Passengers Of Viking Princess
By James Donahue
Captain Otto Thorosen was lauded for the training he demanded of his Norwegian crew after fire swept his command, the
passenger liner Viking Princess. All but two passengers and crew members escaped.
The 536-foot-long liner was carrying 235 passengers and 259 crewmembers in the Caribbean when fire broke out in the
engine room off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 8, 1966.
The fire broke out at about 1:44 a.m. when most of the passengers were asleep. When the fire could not be contained,
Thorosen ordered an emergency radio call and then issued the order to abandon ship.
As they were trained, crew members moved through the corridors, rousing passengers and outfitting them with life jackets.
The evacuation was so well supervised that all of the ship’s steel lifeboats were launched with passengers and the crew
on them within 15 minutes. Everybody was safely picked up by nearby freighters that responded to the ship’s SOS.
Two passengers died of heart attacks and 25 others sustained minor injuries.
The 16-year-old Viking Princess burned to a total loss. The burned out wreck was sold to a Spanish company for scrap.
The ship was launched as a cargo-passenger carrier in St. Nazaire, France, in 1948. She made her maiden voyage from
Le Havre to Buenos Aires as the Lavoisier in 1950. The vessel was sold to Italian owners and rebuilt as a cruise ship in 1961.
It sailed under the name Riviera Prima until 1964 when the ship was again sold to Oslo owners and given its final name, Viking