Pair’s ‘ lov­ing unity’ in fi­nal hours alive

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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