LOS ANGELES – Three members of a cruise ship crew were killed by toxic sewer gas Friday as they repaired a waste pipe aboard the ship that had just returned to the Port of Los Angeles.
No passengers were injured, but 19 other crew members from Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas were examined for possible exposure to the toxic gas, authorities said.
Passengers were leaving the ship at the time of the incident.
Officials first identified the gas as methane but later determined it was hydrogen sulfide, which occurs in sewage, said Barbara Yu, a hazardous-materials specialist for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The three crew members probably died within 30 seconds of encountering the gas, Yu said.
“It deadens your sense of smell so you don’t even smell it,” she said.
The incident occurred after the ship returned from a cruise with about 2,500 passengers and 850 crew members, said city Fire Department Battalion Chief Lou Roupoli. The ship makes regular trips down Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Royal Caribbean said crew members were replacing a section of pipe connected to the ship’s sewage system. The broken line expelled about 5 gallons of raw sewage and an unknown amount of gas in a propeller shaft tunnel, Roupoli said.
Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tony Migliorini said the repair crew could have worn special masks, but they usually are not required for such operations.
Fire officials said the repair was being done in an isolated, enclosed space and that most of those who later reported feeling nauseated had not been in the space but decided that they wanted to be checked out.
The 14-year-old Monarch of the Seas is based in Los Angeles harbor and registered in the Bahamas.