Local News

Smiles, Hugs Mark Safe End to Local Students' Shipwreck Cruise

Posted April 7, 2007 9:42 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2007 1:36 p.m. EDT

— About 30 people with Triangle-area ties who escaped a sinking cruise ship in Greece arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Saturday afternoon.

The homecoming was an emotional one for the group of parents, students and teachers from Southeast Raleigh High School and Chapel Hill High School who were reunited with family members.

A third group of students from Middle Creek High School were expected to return late Saturday.

"I ve never felt so emotional before, especially in front of a bunch of people," said Southeast Raleigh High student Vallyn Murphy. "But I just feel so lucky to be out, to be here for Easter, to have my parents here—and they're crying—it's just a beautiful feeling."

"We were all applauding the whole flight, practically," one passenger said. "We were just so happy to be coming home. It felt pretty good."

The group's spring break trip was cut short Thursday when the 469-foot Sea Diamond struck a well-marked and charted reef, in fair weather, inside the Greek island of Santorin's sea-filled volcanic crater.

"We hit a rock," Murphy said. "I was on the 10th floor, taking pictures, and I saw this cloud of oil, I guess it was, go into the water."

Nearly 1,600 people were rescued from the ship Thursday in a three-hour rescue operation after the vessel foundered on a volcanic reef.

Divers continued to search for a Frenchman and his daughter who disappeared after their cabin flooded with water when the ship struck rocks.

The captain of the ship, as well as other crew members, were arrested and now faces a number of charges, including negligence for causing a ship wreck., breaching international shipping safety regulations and polluting the environment.

If those charges are upheld in court, the captain could face a five-year prison sentence.