A Thomson Cruises liner had arrived in La Palma in the Canary Islands for a stopover en route to Funchal in Madeira. 3 hours later, an emergency exercise killed 5 and injured 3 as a lifeboat fell more than 20 meters down into the water.
The ship had docked shortly before in the port of La Palma in the Spanish Canary Islands. The ship, operated by UK-based Thomson Cruises, then ran a routine safety drill.
Shortly afterwards, the island's Emergency and Security Coordination Center said that rescue personnel had been called to the dockside at 12:05 GMT (7:05 a.m. EST) after "a lifeboat with occupants had fallen overboard from a cruise ship docked at the pier of Santa Cruz port in La Palma."
In what appears to be a failure of the winch, the lifeboat fell from the upper deck, over 20m down into the sea, trapping its occupants. A British passenger, Jim McArthur, took a photo showing that a cable had broken.
He said that he was settling down for lunch after a walk ashore when "there was a sudden thud and I joked to the wife that someone had run into us".
"Then people started going to the windows and when we looked down you could see the boat in the water upside down. "It's a very sad day, there's five lives been lost," he told the BBC.
5 killed in routine safety drill on cruise ship in Canary Islands (MS Thomson Majesty)
The drill apparently began at 10:30 am by lowering a lifeboat with crew members aboard. Around an hour later, when the lifeboat was hoisted back up to the deck, a cable holding the boat snapped. A hook holding the lifeboat on a second cable then gave way, sending the lifeboat plunging down into the water, upside down.
After this an alarm was sounded and the port authorities alerted. The cruise ship's captain called for divers, who then attempted to rescue the crew members.
While no names have been released, the persons killed were all crew members, and included three Indonesians, a Filipino and a Ghanaian. Three other crew members were injured in the incident but were rescued.
The ship, the MS Thomson Majesty, was reportedly carrying around 2,000 people including passengers and crew, but no passengers were involved in the incident.
Thomson Cruises said in a statement it is "aware of an incident involving the ship's crew on board Thomson Majesty, in La Palma, Canary Islands this afternoon".
The statement continued: "We are working closely with the ship owners and managers, Louis Cruises, to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected by the incident."
According to the UK Foreign Office, they are aware of the incident and are "urgently investigating".
This incident comes just 13 months after the Costa Concordia tragedy, in which 32 people were killed.
The MS Thomson Majesty is based in Santa Cruz and runs regular tours for mainly British holidaymakers around Spain's Canary Islands and the Portugal island of Madeira.
MS Thomson Majesty run by UK-based Thomson Cruises.