Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Escaping a real-life sinking ship
Bill Christopher has been chaperoning high school kids on trips to Europe for the past 13 years, along with his wife, a high school teacher. But this time around, the more than 20 teenagers and half-dozen adults in the group were embarking on a journey that was anything but typical. After his experience, Christopher shared his story with I-Report. (Check out his firsthand account in this gallery.)

Just as they were about to drop anchor and go ashore on the Greek Isles for a day of sightseeing, they heard an eerie scraping and tearing sound that lasted for three or four seconds. As the ship began to tilt to the starboard side, Christopher realized the ship was taking on water. He said it was impossible to keep the group together because the ship was crowded with scared people.

“I went up to the eighth level to see what was happening, and when I decided to return to the fifth level, it was impossible,” he wrote. “There was a wave or stampede of people coming up both stairwells. Everyone had fear and panic on their faces.”

It was “just like the movies,” with women and children being rescued first, including his wife. His two small children were safe at home with their grandmother. Christopher said he remained on the boat for about two to three hours, passing the time by watching television or looking at the helicopters flying around, all the while making plans for a worst-case scenario: ending up in the water. He kept an eye on the angle of the water in the tilted swimming pool as a way of tracking whether the ship was sinking further. Finally, he spotted a ferry that positioned itself at a perpendicular angle to the cruise ship. The ship’s bow had a ramp on front used for loading vehicles, but this time, it was used for loading people.

“People had to exit the lower level of the ship (near the water) and climb over the ramp and slide down on a couple mattresses that they had rigged to comfort the ride down,” he wrote. “The other method (my route) was to walk on a wood plank that was a little shaky, and then climb down into the ferry. Finally, I was reunited with my wife and most of our group.”

The ship eventually sank where it was in the Aegean Sea, several hours after Christopher got off. A Miami firefighter, he typically is the one doing the rescuing. But in this situation, he says he pulled back and followed the directions of the crew, and advises others to do the same.

"That's usually the best thing to do -- listen to the people in charge,” he writes. “That should facilitate people getting off the ship in the most orderly way."

What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Comment below and let us know your thoughts on Christopher’s story.
Monday, April 09, 2007
News that matters
“What’s happening near you?” That’s a question we ask our I-Reporters every day. We do it because you have stories to tell. Sometimes the news involves national or global issues that effect us all –- but often the news most important to you is the news that is happening right outside your front door.

Take for example Robert Lang of West St. Paul, Manitoba. A large ice jam has stalled on the Red River just North of him in Selkirk. A wall of broken ice has piled high against a old bridge. Local officials are concerned that the ice could damage the bridge and push floodwaters over the banks. Lang snapped this image to document the danger and share it with CNN.

Another I-Reporter, Tom Wingert, used his camera to capture a more immediate danger in his neighborhood. He shot a spectacular image of a bowling alley fire in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As firefighters rushed to the scene, so too did Wingert. The blaze quickly engulfed the local family fun spot –- and as the roof collapsed, flames shot high into the air. Everyone inside made it out OK, but for local officials on the ground, the flames were too close for comfort.

Lang and Wingert are not trained journalists; they are citizens who care about the news near them. And thanks to their efforts, now we do too.
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