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‘There was no freak wave’, says passenger on ship from which women fell overboard

‘There was no freak wave’, says passenger on ship from which women fell overboard
Debbie Schipp and Andrew Koubaridis April 13, 2018

POLICE have released details of the woman who fell overboard from a P & O cruise ship as passengers reveal their accounts of the tragedy.

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AS the Pacific Dawn makes a sombre voyage back towards Brisbane, a passenger says the ship was not listing at the time a woman fell overboard on Thursday afternoon.

Ms An told AAP suggestions the woman was knocked overboard by a wave were incorrect — although she was unsure how the incident occurred about 4pm on Thursday near New Caledonia.

Queensland Police have confirmed the victim is a 47-year-old Brisbane woman.

They said at this stage there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding how she fell as the Pacific Dawn was being lashed by heavy seas 150 nautical miles west of New Caledonia.

Fellow passenger, Ms An, said she was “Unaware as to how she fell”.

“The rails are all chest high on me and I’m 5’4”,” she said.

“There was no wave and we did not list during this time. They (P & O) haven’t said where she fell from.”

Initially, some passengers on board the ship said the woman was feeling sea sick and was knocked overboard by a freak wave.

But the ship’s owner P & O on Friday urged caution around versions of events, saying so far the cause of the tragedy had not been verified.

The incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner.

The Pacific Dawn spent hours on Thursday circling in rough seas while staff scoured the ocean for the woman. It remained in the area this morning to continue the search, but authorities confirmed about 7.45am it had ended.

The Captain made an announcement to passengers “with a very heavy heart” confirming the search had been unsuccessful.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest,” he said, according to The Courier Mail.

“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.”

A crew member saw the woman fall over the side of the ship.


“The difficult decision to suspend the search was made only after expert advice that survival after this length of time in difficult sea conditions and after a full night at sea was not considered possible,” a P & O statement posted on Facebook read.

P & O today refused to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the fall “out of respect to the family”.

It’s possible the fall was captured on security cameras.

Life rings were immediately thrown into the water, but there was no sign of the woman.

Ms An said the parent cruise ship company could not be faulted for the way it has handled the tragedy.

She said it was her 10th cruise with P & O, her 12th overall, and was “by far the worst thing I’ve seen happen on a cruise”.

Ms An said there was a sombre mood on-board and passengers had been kept well informed of the situation.

“The captain has asked for (the) privacy of the family which is being respected,” she told AAP on Friday.