FI­NAL MIN­UTES TO TRAGEDY

CRUISE SHIP FAM­ILY SHOCK

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - SO­PHIE CHIRGWIN THOMAS CHAMBERLIN

A BRIS­BANE woman was watch­ing on-board ac­tiv­i­ties just mo­ments be­fore she plunged to her death from the top deck of a P&O cruise ship, an eye­wit­ness has claimed.

The 47-year-old pas­sen­ger and her hus­band were in an area where pas­sen­gers were play­ing ta­ble ten­nis when she walked across the deck about 5m away and be­gan to vomit while lean­ing over a rail­ing of the Pa­cific Dawn.

In an in­stant, a fam­ily hol­i­day turned to tragedy as she ap­par­ently lost her foot­ing and fell from the liner. It was wit­nessed by her dis­traught hus- band who col­lapsed in shock, ac­cord­ing to the witness.

“(She was) vom­it­ing out­side, near the ta­ble ten­nis area,” a guest, who asked not to be named, said.

“Lean­ing over, not far over, then she fell. When she went over he col­lapsed.”

The ship cir­cled for hours in a fran­tic but un­suc­cess­ful search for the woman af­ter the in­ci­dent about 150 nau­ti­cal miles off New Cale­do­nia about 4pm Thurs­day. The ship re­mained in the area to search again af­ter sun­rise yes­ter­day, but the search was aban­doned about 7.30am.

A P&O spokesman said ex­pert ad­vice was that “sur­vival af­ter this length of time in dif- fi­cult sea con­di­tions and af­ter a full night at sea was not con­sid­ered pos­si­ble”.

The cap­tain gave the news to other pas­sen­gers in a heart­break­ing an­nounce­ment over the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been un­able to lo­cate our guest,” the

cap­tain said. “We are still in the area of the in­ci­dent, and the weather con­di­tions with the swell three to four me­tres high, as you can see out­side … the strong wind made our search ex­tremely chal­leng­ing.

“As a re­sult we have now made the ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to con­tinue our jour­ney to­wards Bris­bane. I know I speak on be­half of all of you when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the fam­ily.”

The woman is be­lieved to have been trav­el­ling with her hus­band and chil­dren. A let­ter to pas­sen­gers from P&O yes­ter­day said her fam­ily was be­ing looked af­ter by “spe­cial care trained crew” as the ship made its way back to Bris­bane.

It is ex­pected to dock at Hamil­ton Port­side at 6am to­mor­row, mak­ing it a 62-hour jour­ney for the griev­ing fam­ily since the woman fell. “Of­fi­cers will meet the Pa

cific Dawn when it ar­rives at the Port of Bris­bane on Sun­day morn­ing to con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions and work with other agen­cies as re­quired,” a Queens­land Po­lice spokesman said yes­ter­day. “No sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances have been iden­ti­fied at this time.”

A pas­sen­ger yes­ter­day said: “Staff have said it’s not easy to fall off as the bar­ri­cade is quite high and solid. Other than that they aren’t say­ing how it hap­pened.” An­other pas­sen­ger said the cap­tain made an an­nounce­ment about 75km/h winds and a 4m swell shortly be­fore the woman fell.

An­other pas­sen­ger de­scribed the cur­rent mood on­board the ship as “very sad, solemn and quiet”.

The ship, which ac­com­mo­dates 1546 guests, left Bris­bane last Satur­day for a sev­en­day Pa­cific Is­land cruise.

(She was) vom­it­ing out­side, near the ta­ble ten­nis area. Lean­ing over, not far over, then she fell. CRUISESHIPPASSENGER

HOPE LOST: Crew mem­bers look over a rail­ing of the P&O cruise ship Pa­cific Dawn (in­set left); pas­sen­gers keep watch (in­set right); a life ring floats in the water near the ves­sel (left). Pic­tures: Chan­nel 10, Twit­ter

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