FINAL MINUTES TO TRAGEDY
CRUISE SHIP FAMILY SHOCK
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