The Louis Majesty was on the last leg of a 12-day Mediterranean cruise with 1,350 passengers and 580 crew members onboard when it was slammed by a barrage of 30-foot high waves Wednesday, killing two people and injuring 14 .
Think of it as a three-story building smashing into the front of the ship.
"There were three waves," Michael Maratheftis, a spokesman for Louise Cruises, told ABC News. "The second and third did the damage."
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The waves struck the ship Wednesday afternoon off the coast of Marseilles, France, smashing into the bow, shattering windows in a restaurant on the ship's fifth deck.
Maratheftis said the two passengers were killed after enduring fatal injuries from glass shards and ripped-out window frames and furniture.
"I heard people yelling," Edvino Curtis, an Italian passenger, told the newspaper Il Piccolo. "When I went in to see what was happening, a window broke and sea overwhelmed everybody."
The bodies of the dead, a German man and an Italian man, were brought ashore. The 14 injured passengers, including a Spanish woman with both legs broken, were taken to the hospital.
The ship's captain turned around and headed for Barcelona, a port he had avoided earlier in a vain attempt to bypass bad weather in the Mediterranean. The Louis Majesty docked in Barcelona late Wednesday night.
Such catastrophic cruise events are rare but not unprecedented. In 2005, the Norwegian Dawn cruise liner was en route from the Bahamas to New York City when it was slammed by waves 70 feet high. Four passengers were injured as they were thrown around in their cabins.
Earlier that year, a group of American students on a semester at sea were shocked when their ship was slammed by freak waves. No one was killed in that incident.
This morning Maratheftis said that every day ships sail in far heavier seas than those experienced by the Louis Majesty.
"This was unforeseen," he told ABC News. "Totally unpredictable."
The Louis Majesty remains in port in Barcelona awaiting repairs. The 1,300 traumatized passengers are being flown home.
The Associated Press contributed this story.