S E A T T L E, May 21, 2001 -- Sixteen cruise passengers were injured when a sudden maneuver gave their ship a jolt.
The Seattle-based Norwegian Sky was entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington's Olympic Peninsula from Canada's Vancouver Island, when it was shaken by the violent jolt.
Then, it began to lean sharply to one side — causing passengers to fear that their craft was about to capsize.
"We just thought it was a bad wave and it really started to list," said passenger Peter Ladd, who videotaped the drama. "And then it went completely to one side, and then everything started flying. There was just all sorts of stuff flying all over the place."
The ship had just finished a cruise through Alaska's magnificent Glacier Bay, and most passengers were enjoying a picture-perfect afternoon.
"We were just sitting there enjoying the afternoon sun," said Ladd, a Seattle resident.
But the accident left a path of destruction throughout the ship.
Damage to Interior as Ship Lists
"I went to the Duty Free shop and there was perfumes and glass cases smashed and everything all over the floor and the restaurants were completely trashed," he said. "All the dining room tables were tipped over and there's glasses and cutlery just everything all over the floor."
The ship's captain told the Canadian Coast Guard that he made a quick course alteration at the mouth of the strait. Some passengers say he announced that they were having technical problems.
Ladd said the captain didn't say much.
"We didn't get anything until 15 minutes later, and thereafter, the captain said that he felt it was a rudder problem, and basically that's all the information we got."
When the ship arrived in Victoria, emergency crews carried the injured off on stretchers, and ambulances took many to a hospital.
Injuries reportedly included broken bones, but were otherwise minor. Many passengers were left shaken — and searching for answers.
Conflicting Accounts of Ship Staff
"They didn't get rid of the water on the deck, they didn't help people who were injured; they turned the other way, there was no recompense," said a passenger identified only as Stephanie.
But Ladd said the crew did the best they could.
"They were doing a great job, no doubt about it," he said. "Everyone was running around trying to get back on top of things."
The Coast Guard is investigating. Norwegian Cruise Lines said in a statement that the autopilot disengaged while the ship was en route to Victoria, causing the rudders to swing, and forcing the ship to swerve momentarily.
The company says the ship will be operated manually until an investigation is completed. The Associated Press reported that the ship, cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard to resume operations as long as its autopilot is not used, left Seattle Sunday evening for another Alaska cruise.
ABCNEWS affiliate KOMO in Seattle contributed to this report.