Tragic November 2003 Accident on Queen Mary 2 Construction Site

Gangway Collapses, Killing 15 and Injuring Over 30

Queen Mary 2 Ocean Liner
••• Queen Mary 2 Ocean Liner. Julian Starks/Moment/Getty Images

Since its launch in 2004, the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship of Cunard Line has sailed millions of miles and treated hundreds of thousands of guests to memorable cruise vacations. However, many cruise fans recall the horrible 2003 accident that occurred at the French shipyard where the ship was being built. 

Fifteen people were killed November 15, 2003 and over thirty more were injured when a gangway on the mega cruise ship the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) collapsed.

Most of those killed or injured were workers and their families who were touring the ship. Several of the injured were in serious condition in a local hospital. The accident occurred while the ship was at the dock in Saint-Nazaire, France, having returned earlier in the week from its last sea trials. The Associated Press reported that a crowded access gangway linking the ship to the pier collapsed, dropping the victims 30-80 feet. The gangway had just been installed that week for the special visit by the workers' families.

Alstom Marine's Chantiers de l'Atlantique spent two years building the $780 million, 150,000-ton ship for the British ship operator Cunard Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp. The QM2's maiden voyage was on January 12, 2004 from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale. The ship was named by Her Majesty the Queen (Queen Elizabeth) in Southampton on January 8, 2004.

The QM2 is the Cunard Line flagship, and the ship was the longest, tallest, heaviest passenger ship ever built when she first sailed in January 2004--377 yards long and 79 yards high (or about the height of a 21-story building).

President Jacques Chirac of France visited the shipyard on the Sunday after the accident. French Social Affairs Minister Francois Fillon was also at the site on the Saturday night after the accident.

This ship was highly publicized and widely-anticipated by the traveling public. The shipyard had received over 100,000 requests to tour the ship while it was under construction.

Over 800 companies, mostly French, were involved in the building of the Queen Mary 2. The ship carries over 2600 passengers on 14 decks, and about 75% of the cabins have balconies. The Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise ship that allows pets onboard (although they have to stay in a kennel, rather than in a cabin). The ocean liner can move up to 30 knots, making it one of the fastest passenger ships afloat, and it has a draft of over 32 feet, which helps stabilize the ship in the sometimes rough water of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since this horrible accident in 2003, the Queen Mary 2 has sailed thousands of miles on world-wide voyages, with her most common itinerary being a transatlantic voyage between Southampton and New York City. It's sad when tragedies occur, but the ship has made good memories for its guests over the past 10+ years.