Pair’s ‘ loving unity’ in final hours alive
KRISTEN Schroder’s decision to climb a fifth- storey cruise ship railing would be the final test of her partner’s love.
The 26- year- old slipped and fell 18m from the balcony, prompting boyfriend Paul Rossington to dive after her.
The bodies of the NSW couple have never been found.
NSW Deputy Coroner Hugh Dillon found yesterday that it was improbable Ms Schroder, who suffered anxiety and depression, meant to end her life that night in May 2013.
“The most likely explanation is that Kristen, being unafraid of heights, was making a dramatic gesture to alarm and test Paul,” he said.
The couple, who had started living together in the northern NSW town of Barraba, were on the Carnival Spirit cruise in a last- ditch attempt to get their relationship back on track.
A security camera captured them having a “terse” conversation before the incident.
Mr Dillon said the case was especially tragic because of the “loneliness of their deaths in a dark ocean” and because the couple had been denied a chance to fix their relationship.
“Paradoxically, what they had struggled to achieve in life – loving unity – they perhaps managed in their last actions alive,” he said.
He said it was probable the couple, if they survived the fall, would have died within hours of hitting the water 120km off the NSW coast.
They were not reported missing until the ship docked in Sydney the next morning.
Footage supplied to the inquest shows Ms Schroder clinging to a wooden railing for four seconds before falling before 9pm. She struck a railing of a lower deck and somersaulted 12.6m into the water.
Mr Rossington, 30, is shown jumping off moments later.
Mr Dillon said he would nominate Mr Rossington for a bravery award after calls from the police officer in charge of the case to have him receive the Cross of Valour.
“Paul’s act in jumping off the ship to help Kristen appears to have been conspicuously courageous and undoubtedly placed him in extreme peril,” Mr Dillon said.
Mr Rossington’s parents said they were humbled by the recommendation. His mother Christeen said the end of the inquest would help her family start to move forward. “Perhaps now we can start to grieve,” she said, flanked by family, including a brother who was wearing Mr Rossington’s kilt.
The Coroner found the deaths were not because of any failure by Carnival Cruises but he recommended it give passengers specific briefings on man overboard procedures.
Carnival said the deaths were a “profound human tragedy”.
“Specific information on how to respond to a man overboard has been included in the mandatory safety drills,” it said in a statement yesterday.
CRUISE TRAGEDY: Kristen Schroder in Sydney in 2012 and ( above left) with boyfriend Paul Rossington. Investigators ( top left) examine the ship railing from which she fell.