10 Feb 2017

Fatal explosion: 'It was as loud as hell'

1:57 pm on 10 February 2017

A gas cylinder that exploded, killing a cruise ship employee near Dunedin, sounded like a bomb going off, witnesses say.

The explosion happened onboard the Emerald Princess.

The explosion happened onboard the Emerald Princess. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The cylinder, containing compressed nitrogen, exploded aboard the Emerald Princess yesterday afternoon while it was docked at Port Chalmers.

It hit and killed the man before flying over the railings onto the wharf below.

Police confirmed this morning that the dead man was from the Philippines.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry and two investigators are now on board the cruise ship.

It was a sombre morning for passengers from the ship, who were let off the vessel for a few hours while the investigation was underway.

Many ventured into Port Chalmers, braving the rain for a coffee and a stroll.

One woman said she had heard of passengers complaining at the in-port delay, but she said the ship's captain had done everything he could to make passengers comfortable.

Gina Kinnaird was at home with her mother at the time.

"It sounded like on movies how you hear bombs go off, but it was really, really loud," she said.

"We just quickly stood up to have a look ... and everyone on the cruise ship came out onto their decks and everyone was rushing out on to the street to see what was going on."

A Maritime Union worker said he had never heard anything like the explosion.

Two investigators are due in Dunedin this morning to find out what caused a cylinder, containing compressed nitrogen, to explode aboard the Emerald Princess.

The Maritime Union's former national president, Phil Adams, was working at the port at the time and told Morning Report he never wanted to hear the same sound again.

"I've never heard anything like that in my life - it was as loud as hell."

The wharf was chaotic in the aftermath as people were running everywhere, Mr Adams said.

The ship was due to set sail for Fiordland last night, but its journey is now on hold while authorities investigate how the man died.