Brentwood leukemia patient to get do-over Make-A-Wish following cruise fire



BRENTWOOD, Pa. - A teenage Brentwood leukemia patient apparently will get a do-over on a wish come true.

Sara Frey, 15, was on a Caribbean cruise with her family, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, when fire broke out aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Grandeur of the Seas early Monday, causing the dream trip to end.

“I got to choose my Make-A-Wish. You could go somewhere, meet someone famous, and I chose to travel and go on a cruise,” Frey told Channel 11’s Cara Sapida.

Ann Hohn, chief operating officer for Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said the foundation would do everything it could to either book another cruise for the Freys or work with the girl to fulfill another wish.

“If she chooses to go on another cruise, we'll do that; if she wants to go in another direction after all this, that's fine,” Hohn said.

The trip started on Friday after four rounds of chemotherapy treatment for Sara's acute myeloid leukemia, which doctors diagnosed last May.

The cancer was in remission as of late last year, but she enrolled with Make-A-Wish shortly after her diagnosis and the organization set up the trip, said Hohn.

Sara and her family were out of cellphone range and unable to be reached Tuesday, but Sara told the South Hills Record this month that she'd been excited to finally make the trip.

“She's getting her energy back,” mom Colleen Frey said before the cruise. “She's getting back to normal.”

Grandeur of the Seas, opened for business in 1996 and refurbished last year, started its seven-day Caribbean cruise out of Baltimore, but fire broke out on the aft mooring deck while the ship was en route from Cocoa Beach, Fla., to CocoCay, Bahamas, according to Royal Caribbean spokespeople.

Sara Frey told Sapida, “We were confused and startled and my dad jumped to action super-fast and grabbed our life jackets.”

All 2,224 passengers and 796 crew members were accounted for, and crews extinguished the fire by 4:58 a.m. Power aboard the ship was not affected, so it detoured to Freeport, Bahamas, for evaluation and repairs, company officials said.

Other passengers from the Pittsburgh region praised the crew and the cruise company for their quick response to the fire.

“Character kind of shines through during crisis times, and the crew and the company really came through,” said Craig Dzubak, 26, of Mt. Washington, who was cruising with his wife, Chelsea, 23.

He said they were asleep when fire alarms went off and crew members banged on doors to make sure passengers went to their “muster areas” near the lifeboats, which were starting to be lowered and loaded with supplies as crew rushed around the deck with firefighting equipment. Ships from the Coast Guard and another cruise ship pulled alongside the Grandeur, ready to carry evacuees until the fire was under control, but no one had to leave the ship.

“We were on the complete opposite end of the ship, so we had no idea what was going on or how bad it was,” Dzubak said. “When we got off the ship, my jaw just dropped to see the damage.”

The rest of the cruise was canceled, company officials said, so the company was flying passengers from Freeport to Baltimore aboard 11 charter flights scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday. Passengers unable to fly got the option of a ferry to Fort Lauderdale and a train or bus from there to Baltimore.

The first flights started arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Guests got a full refund — which in the Freys' case, went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation — and passengers, including the Freys, got vouchers for another free cruise.

“I guess it was a good experience for the time that it was. It was really nice and everyone was so nice, really fun,” Sara Frey told Sapida.

Sara Frey’s dad, Sean Frey, said “When we think about it, last year we were at 9b in Children’s Hospital. Being stuck in the Bahamas on a cruise line, we'd rather be there than up on 9b.”

Reuben Byrd, vice president of the Grand Bahama Shipyard where the ship docked, said his company would repair Grandeur of the Seas there.

The cause of the fire was not yet known. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board said they plan to investigate.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.