Tragedy befalls American couple on Amazon River cruise

Surveillance video shows smoke emerging from their cabin but it would be more than 20 minutes before crew entered the room.
3:13 | 07/11/17

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Transcript for Tragedy befalls American couple on Amazon River cruise
We are back with that cruise ship tragedy. A couple died after smoke filled their cabin and now their family is fighting to change a nearly 100-year-old law they fear could prevent them from holding anyone accountable. Brian Ross is back with that story. Good morning, Brian. Reporter: Good morning. More than 10 million Americans will take an overseas cruise this year. For many the vacation of a lifetime but this morning a sobering video that shows what can go wrong and how a law passed in the 1920s makes it hard to do much about it. The Americans who boarded this Amazon river boat in south America were told it was a brand-new vessel built to exceed safety standards and for Christie and Larry hammer of Lincoln, Nebraska, it was their ultimate adventure. They had worked for years and lived pretty frugally because they always looked forward to a retirement where they'd be exploring the world together. Reporter: But on the very first night of the cruise, in April last year, sometime after midnight something went terribly wrong in the hammers' cabin. Video shows smoke beginning to come out of the room and in minutes the entire hallway is filled with smoke. Bessie and Randy Rosenberg in a room down the hall said there were no fire alarms sounding. No alarm, no flashing lights. You couldn't see five inches in front of your face. Reporter: Again and again, crew members go to the hammers' cabin but don't try to go inside. It would be 20 minutes and 47 seconds from the first sign of smoke until the crew will enter the cabin to rescue the hammers. It was too late. Larry hammer died in the cabin from smoke inhalation. And the crew waited another 6 minutes before pulling out Christie hammer who later died en route to a hospital. Getting on that boat cost them their lives. Reporter: An investigation by the Peruvian Navy found the cause to be an overheated power strip supplied by the cruise. And that the ship's fire alarms did not sound to the disgust of the hammers' daughters, Jill and Kelly. International expeditions didn't put audible alarms in the cabins. The state-of-the-art boat. A state-of-the-art boat. Reporter: But now as the daughters try to take action against the American company that ran the cruise and chartered the boat, they fear it will try to hide behind a law passed in the 1920s called the death on the high seas act. Under the law if applied in their case, the company would only be liable for their parents' funeral expenses. There's no place else in the world that you can kill somebody and really have no consequence. Other than international waters. Reporter: The cruise industry says it has an outstanding record and imposing new and costly federal laws is unjustified and unnecessary. But now some in congress say the industry needs to be held more accountable. The crew, the management, everyone who has a responsibility for anyone on that ship ought to be held accountable when they fail to follow basic standards of care. In a statement to ABC news the company that ran the cruise said only it is deeply saddened by the hammers' death and that it continues to review its operations which the sisters hope will mean power strips that don't catch on fire and fire alarms that make a sound and work. George. At a minimum. Okay, Brian, thanks very much. Coming up on our big board,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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