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Victoria family stranded at sea on Carnival cruise

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
Feb. 12, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2013 at 8:13 p.m.

From left, Madeline Carter, Kamryn McDavid, Melissa McDavid & Ryann McDavid

Facts about Triumph:

GUESTS/STAFF: 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew

DIMENSIONS: 893 feet long; 101,509 gross tonage; top speed of 21 knots

HOME PORT: Galveston

ROUTE: Cruises to the Caribbean Sea

SOURCE: Carnival Cruise Line or carnival.com

Crossroads residents are praying this week for the speedy return of an area family to dry land.

David Pribyl, his wife Bettye Pribyl, their daughter Melissa McDavid, their son-in-law Andrew McDavid and their grandchildren, ages 2, 10 and 12, are aboard the distressed Carnival cruise ship Triumph.

Tugboats are pulling them - along with thousands of other passengers - to shore after a weekend fire in the Triumph's engine room left the boat drifting without power some 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula.

The ship is expected to make it to Mobile, Ala., weather permitting, by Thursday, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm.

David and Bettye Pribyl's daughter, Anji Pribyl Fussell, was having trouble concentrating Tuesday while running her Austin-based company She Spies Private Eyes. She's been monitoring the TV after learning her family's four-day trip, which was meant to celebrate Melissa McDavid's 40th birthday, went awry.

Her cellphone never leaves her side. Not counting Carnival's daily automated updates, she last heard from the family Sunday, when they said the ship was leaning and that toilets and air conditioning had stopped working.

"Every day they're out there, I'm getting more and more stressed," Fussell said. "I want to pick up the phone and call them like I'm used to doing every day and I can't. That is what is heart wrenching."

She and her sister, Shelley Shroyer, who decided to stay behind for work, said this was their parents' first shot at fully enjoying their retirement. They said the family has lost several elderly relatives in a matter of weeks.

"I think any time you take a trip or a vacation, there's always a risk of something happening. ... I was just hoping it wouldn't happen on my parents' very first cruise," Fussell said.

Shroyer said she was more worried about their physical well-being.

She said lack of specific updates about the conditions aboard posted on Carnival's Facebook page were doing little to quell her fear that supplies, such as diapers for her 2-year-old niece and food and medicine for her diabetic mother, were running low.

She also said her father was experiencing some vertigo beforehand.

"He was a little apprehensive," Shroyer said. "The day before he left, I jokingly said, 'Dad, this is going to be an awesome adventure.' Now, I feel like I'm eating my words. It's probably a much bigger adventure than we anticipated they would ever have, and I feel pretty bad about that."

The Pribyls' friends, meanwhile, describe them as invaluable volunteers of Warrior's Weekend for the past six years. Victoria resident Sherry Kocian said she works with the couple, who do everything from laying out Excel spread sheets to wiring light displays to coordinating the Wings of Freedom event at the Victoria Regional Airport.

Kocian said she's known them since high school.

"I hear about all these people lost at sea, and, now, I will never go on a cruise," Kocian said. "All we can do is lift them in prayer."

Pat G. DeDear, the manager of the restaurant Lettuce Wrap It, also expressed concern for Bettye Pribyl, who she met in middle school.

"She was just excited because the whole family was going. This was her getaway," DeDear said, recalling their last visit. "But from what I hear, the conditions are pretty deplorable. ... I just can't imagine."

Col. Mike Petrash, who also knows the Pribyls from Warrior's Weekend, said they're "salt of the earth people."

"I wrote to them today and said, 'You may not be anywhere near cellphone coverage, but if by chance you get this, know that I am praying for you,'" Petrash said.

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