Nebraska couple dies in Alabama cruise boat fire on Amazon River

Originally published by The Associated Press

On Monday, family members buried the Nebraska couple who died earlier this month during an Amazon River cruise in Peru, but they still don't know much about the fire that killed Larry and Christy Hammer.

One of the retired couple's grown children, Jill Malott, said she's frustrated that the family hasn't heard much from either Peruvian officials or the International Expeditions company that booked the trip. Larry Hammer, 74, and Christy Hammer, 72, of Omaha, Nebraska, died April 10.

"Everyone in our family is so desperate to find answers," said Malott, who lives in Menlo Park, California.

The family has hired attorneys in Peru and outside investigators in an effort to learn what started the fire and why the Hammers were unable to escape. They were the only ones injured on the ship.

Helena-based International Expeditions expects to receive the official investigation report this week that may yield some answers, spokeswoman Carrie Palmer said. The travel company has offered tours of the Amazon for 36 years, Palmer said.

"I wish that I could shed some light on this," Palmer said. "This is a tragic, tragic accident and our hearts go out to the family."

The boat was inspected after the incident, and Palmer said officials determined it was safe enough to resume normal operations. International Expeditions doesn't own the Estrella Amazonica ship involved, but it charters it for almost weekly tours of the Amazon.

The Hammers' daughters said their parents loved to travel and experience other cultures. They had visited every continent except Antarctica, but many of their trips were family affairs closer to home, such as a trip in August to Disneyland with all four grandchildren.

"What is so devastating on our end is the fact that our children are so young and so loved by them. I have a 4-year-old, and I don't know what he is going to remember," said the couple's other daughter, Kelly Lankford of Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Larry Hammer worked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for about 30 years before retiring as director of programs and continuing education. Christy Hammer was a former Lincoln Public Schools teacher who also taught literature at UNL and worked as a senior analyst at Gallup in Omaha.