If the crew hadn't reacted quickly and the fire suppression system hadn't worked properly, he said, "the fire from the engine room would have eventually burned through to other parts of the ship." Engine room fires that can't be suppressed generally result in the loss of the entire ship, he said.
The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day trip to Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship early Feb. 10, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed it to Mobile. Passengers described harsh conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for food, foul odors and tent cities for sleeping on deck.
Hatfield said investigators from the Coast Guard and NTSB would stay with the ship until about the end of the week, then continue work at their respective offices. She said the investigation will look further at the cause of the fire and the crew's response, as well as why the ship was disabled for so long.
Last week, a team of six NTSB investigators were in Mobile trying to determine the cause of the fire. An NTSB spokesman said then that the agency could take information developed from the probe and use it to make recommendations for improving cruise ship safety.
Passengers interviewed after the cruise complained about confusion in the immediate aftermath of the fire about whether to evacuate their rooms as well as poor communication about what was happening.
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized to passengers late last week.