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

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

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.

She said passengers had been updated with developments from the outset.

“The captain and crew have been put in an unimaginable position yet have handled themselves professionally and with the respect to the victim and her family,” she said.

In the wake of the woman’s disappearance, another passenger had posted on Facebook about the dramatic moment the woman fell.

“She leaned over and the ship rocked in heavy seas — her husband tried to catch her but she slipped,” the passenger’s post read.

Other passengers said children that were near her also witnessed the devastating fall.

The woman was believed to be travelling with her children, but it is unclear if they were on the deck with her.

Other passengers believed the she may have been playing bingo before the tragedy as a woman was heard to say she was going outside because she was unwell.

They then heard the alarm being sounded and the woman never returned.


The Australian Maritime Safety Bureau and New Caledonian authorities issued a call for nearby vessels to assist. An AMSA spokeswoman said there are no other rescue boats tasked in the search with the cruise ship alone left to trawl the area.

“It would take days for anyone to reach the area it’s so remote,” the spokeswoman said.

Passenger Jonathan Trevithick posted a picture on Twitter of a lone rescue ring in the sea. “Horrendous here on ship,” he wrote. “Ship going round and round searching.”

“We have been told very little,” he tweeted. “I didn’t know it was a woman. It happened around 5pm. I was on deck and heard someone cry, ‘man overboard’. The ship ground to a halt which took a while, of course. It turned around and found the (possibly 2nd) lifebuoy

“Not looking good. Nightfall now. Ship still searching.”

Asked if it was “just an exercise” he replied: “This is real”.

The search area was about 1000 kilometres northeast of Brisbane and 300 kilometres west of New Caledonia.

A Brisbane man holidaying on the ship with his family told AAP conditions in the search area were rough with 3 to 4 metre swells.

The ship had been on a week-long cruise of Pacific Islands, leaving Brisbane last Saturday.

The 245-metre long Pacific Dawn has a capacity of more than 1500 guests across 11 guest decks, according to the P & O website.

The 27-year-old ship underwent major refurbishment last year.

It’s expected to dock at Portside Wharf at Hamilton at 6am on Sunday.

Police officers will meet the Pacific Dawn when it arrives to conduct investigations. A statement from the Queensland Police Service said the agency would “work with other agencies as required”.

Source: news.com.au
Photo: Vanuatu Tourism Office