National News

Couple's death on cruise unveils company mishaps

Posted July 20

— A trip of a lifetime for Larry and Christy Hammer turned deadly on April 10th, 2016.

It was the first night of a Peruvian cruise when a fire broke out in the Hammer's cabin.

According to the completed report by the Peruvian Navy, at 2 a.m. the fire was caused by a short in a circuit in an electrical extension provided by the boat found on the carpet.

The fire spread throughout the cabin, to a suitcase and the Hammer's mattress.

The report goes on to say there was no user manual or records of whether it was in a safe condition. 74-year-old Larry Hammer connected his respirator to the plug in.

Surveillance video released shows crew members looking confused on what to do in this situation as smoke billows out into the hallway.

"Once they knew where the fire was, they wasted over 20 minutes standing in the hallway, leaving, talking about what to do, opening and closing the door but when a wall of smoke came out they slammed it shut again multiple times. So they wasted over 20 minutes before they took my dad out and he had already died," said daughter Jill Malott.

The report also said the crew had not undergone training for their duties on board and did not hold certificates of competence for their positions on board, the reaction time of the crew was deficient and quite ineffective.

"I guess we knew it was going to be bad, but we didn't know how bad," said Malott. "It's one thing when you see it in black and white but the horror of seeing it in reality is so hard to understand what any human being, whether you're trained or certified-which they weren't or not how any human being can know that two people are trapped in a burning cabin and rather than try and rescue them, you slam a door shut and you act with no urgency."

Mallot said all of International Expedition's marketing materials she found in her dad's desk drawer promotes the company's state of the art safety standards.

"They said that they followed or exceeded multiple safety standards, and only when this tragedy came about and people intensely investigated did we learn the truth-and the truth is horrific. They didn't follow safety standards there's a long list of regulations they were in extreme violations."

Malott warns others wanting to go on a cruise to make sure they know what they signed up for, "Americans need to know to be cautious and to not take what companies take at face value. My parents had every reason to trust what they marketed and it killed them."

The family does not believe the Death on the High Seas Act applies to the Hammers saying in a statement, "Our family is confident that the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) does not apply to our parents' deaths despite International Expeditions' attempts to shield itself from justice behind the veil of this law. International Expeditions' attempt to deflect responsibility is deplorable given the egregious facts and the company's misrepresentations. We will hold them accountable."

International Expeditions' statement to 3 News Now said, "All of us here at IE continue to be deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life of two of our guests following a cabin fire last year aboard the La Estrella Amazonica, a vessel that we charter. Peruvian authorities continue to investigate the accident, and Expediciones Amazonicas, the Peruvian company that owns, operates and manages La Estrella Amazonica, continues to assist the authorities with their investigations. Given the pending legal proceedings in Peru we cannot provide specifics, but our highest priority remains the safety of our guests aboard our chartered vessels. We continue to review our operations to ensure we have the right protocols in place."

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