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Crossroads couples on crippled Carnival cruise

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
Feb. 13, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 13, 2013 at 8:14 p.m.

The tugs Resolve Pioneer and Dabhol, left, tow and steer the 893-foot Carnival Triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship is en route to Mobile, Ala., after an engine room fire on Sunday left the ship powerless. Carnival Cruise Lines on Wednesday canceled voyages through April on the Triumph, a ship that has been plagued by mechanical problems .The ship has more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have told relatives conditions on board the ship are dismal, and they have limited access to food and bathrooms.

More Crossroads families are anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones, who have been stranded since Sunday on a Carnival cruise ship adrift and without power in the Gulf of Mexico.

At least six of those families traveled together from Meyersville.

They are: Johnny Jank and his wife Virginia Jank, Terri Jank and her husband Mitchell Jank, Dr. John Swannack and his wife Margie Swannack, Brian Wendell and his wife Laurie Wendell, Kevin Bodden and his wife Beverly Bodden, Dorren Clutter and his wife Kim Clutter.

Former Victoria postal worker John Cano and his wife Lois Cano are also on the boat.

Those close to the people on board say they were all relatively excited before the Triumph, a 13-deck cruise ship built in 1999, set out from Galveston on a four-day cruise to Cozumel.

Triumph ground to a halt after a fire in the engine room left it without power some 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula. It should arrive, with the aid of tugboats, to port in Mobile, Ala. on Thursday. Then, passengers will be given refunds and bused or flown back to the Houston area, officials said.

Megan Jank last spoke to her parents Johnny Jank and Virginia Jank, owners of Golden Crescent Communications, on Monday when the close proximity of a supply ship allowed them to place calls on their cellphone.

She said then the restrooms were still working and they were doing OK.

Megan Jank said she's since tried to stay away from media reports that would aggravate her worries.

"We just want them home. We are counting on our faith," she said.

Her sister agreed.

"I have to trust God will keep them safe," Megan Jank's sister Kim Weitz wrote in an email.

Megan Jank has shouldered some of the work her father is normally responsible for.

"I've always wanted to learn about the public safety line of our business, and now I've kind of been thrown into it this week," she said of how she's busy installing radios and lights on car grills for various county sheriff's offices.

Laurie Wendell's absence has also been noted at Cuero's Wells Fargo Bank, where she's worked for more than 30 years.

Her friend Belva Farris said the staff was shocked to learn the ship seen on national television was the one the Wendells were on.

"She's a very dedicated employee," Farris said. "We're worried about the conditions because we don't have a clue whether everything they're telling us is correct."

Laurie Wendell's mother, Marlene Fromme, of Cuero, said she regretted encouraging the couple to take a sea voyage for the first time.

"I said, 'It's so much fun.' ... She'll probably never speak to me again," Fromme said.

And Scarlett Clutter said what's most frustrating about the situation is the fact that there's little she can do for her parents, Dorren and Kim Clutter.

She said that when she first received Carnival's automated update from a 1-800 telephone number, she ignored it.

"My friend told me at a grocery store, and I was like, 'What are you talking about?'" Scarlett Clutter said.

A secretary at Dr. John Swannack's Victoria dentist office said they have rearranged his appointments for the week, but a relative declined to comment about the situation.

Andrew Cano suspected his father John Cano's Houston relatives surprised him with the cruise to celebrate his recent retirement. John Cano was well known for spending part of his 46-year career with the postal service at the James Moody Post Office in Victoria. That career ended Jan. 31 with his retirement.

"He's always talked about going on a cruise the whole time he's worked, but I guess could never afford it," Andrew Cano said. "This just plain sucks."

Also worried about their health, Andrew Cano couldn't understand why the supply ships that stopped to help couldn't also ferry passengers to shore.

"If it was me, I would just sink that ship full of feces. That's garbage," he said.

Carlton Bolting, of Yorktown, sensed something like this would happen to the Triumph after he vacationed on it two weeks ago with his wife for their 50th wedding anniversary.

He said the ship "limped" into a Galveston port five hours behind schedule because one of the propellers stopped working for about an hour.

He said they didn't experienced the degree of power loss reported now, but guests were never given an explanation for the malfunction.

"They were pushing that boat to the hilt, and they needed to have some down time," Bolting said, adding that technicians were waiting on the dock when they arrived.

He said the next customers were "chomping at the bit" to get on board, and he didn't know if they'd been notified there were problems beforehand.

"It cost us about $300 per person, which is very economical. ... They've got to get their revenue back on it," Bolting said. "They have these vacations scheduled pretty tight."

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