Yarmouth Castle, cruising from Miami to Nassau, caught fire and sank on 13 November 1965. The blaze, which originated in a mattress placed near an electrical switch in an overheated storage room stocked with flammable products, led to the deaths of 88 passengers and two crew members.
Yarmouth Castle was built in 1927 in Philadelphia by the William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co. Christened Evangeline, she was 365 feet long and 5,002 GRT. At the time of the fire the ship was owned by Yarmouth Cruise Lines and registered in Panama.
Echoes of Morro Castle
The incident was eerily similar to the Morro Castle disaster of 1934. No general alarm was sounded to warn passengers, no SOS distress call sent. Yarmouth Castle’s radio operator later claimed that was away from his post when the blaze broke out and that when he became aware of the danger he could not make his way back to the radio shack.
During recent renovations, outside cabin windows were carelessly painted and essentially glued shut. Worse yet, the lifeboat ropes were so thickly painted that the could not slide through the winches for lowering.
Of the ship’s 13 lifeboats, only six were launched. The first lifeboat launched had 20 people in it. Of the 20, only four were passengers, none of whom were women or children. The lifeboat’s other 16 consisted of the Capt. Byron Voutsinas and 15 crew members. The next two lifeboats also were full of crew.
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