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Red Sea Aggressor I Sinks After Fire, Killing One Diver
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, November 7, 2019 @ 05:30 PM (EST)


News is gradually emerging of a deadly fire on November 1st aboard the Red Sea Aggressor, which was moored to the north of Marsa Alam in the Southern Egyptian Red Sea. The few outlets reporting on the incident on the Suzanna 1—another name for the boat—give few details, but it seems clear that one American guest died while 18 other guests and all 12 Egyptian crew members survived. The news comes just months after the tragic fire aboard the Conception off California, which claimed 34 lives.

A lengthy account from a survivor, Michael Houben, published in English on November 6th and translated from the German version appearing online a day earlier, has filled in many of the blanks. According to Mr Houben, the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning, around 1am, on the penultimate day of a week-long trip aboard the Red Sea Aggressor I. He was woken up by muffled calls of “Fire!” and smelled smoke. Along with two other passengers, he made his way immediately to the emergency exit at the bow and was pulled through the escape hatch. He writes: “At the frenzied pace the smoke and fire were already spreading, it was clear that if we had come out of the cabin only 30 seconds later, we too would have been dead.”

Mr Houben says despite reassurances during the safety briefing that there would be someone acting as a fire watch “around the clock,” there was no crew member awake to spot the fire and raise the alarm. According to Mr Houben’s report, a guest was first to be awakened. He had run to the emergency exit at the rear of the ship after discovering that the fire was making it impossible to escape from the exit at the stern. Again, according to the report, the guest open the rear hatch with some difficulty—apparently because a crew member was sleeping on a mattress covering the hatch. Mr Houben also says that there was never “a single beep from a single smoke detector.”

According to Mr Houben, the survivors were picked up by Zodiacs from a ship of the Emperor fleet that was moored behind the Red Sea Aggressor. After doing a head count and realizing that a woman was missing, the Zodiacs circled the burning boat for “well over half an hour”—but in vain.

In a November 6th addendum to his detailed report, Mr Houben writes he was contacted by a diver who apparently found the wreck, including exploded dive tanks, strewn over a wide area. Local authorities are currently investigating the accident, and we will update this story as we learn more.

 

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