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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Death reported of Grandma dropped into Artic waters from cruise ship

STOP PRESS: It is with deep regret that we hear that Mrs Janet Richardson died on Thursday evening.
The news was released on Saturday 23rd April by the UK hospital she was airlifted to from Norway


73 year old medical emergency Janet Richardson dropped in the sea...

 Cruise Expert Julian Bray comments: "Alpha Alpha Alpha" the most chilling tannoy message on a cruise ship, as it always means code for person overboard, all crew to emergency stations..."  Loading medevac passengers from cruise ships onto lifeboats and port pilot cutters and launches is almost an everyday occurance but the policy seems to differ from cruise ship company to cruise ship company. The distressing news that an elderly lady apparently suffering from internal bleeding, was the one who fell in the freezing sea waters is just horrific.Shwe has now been airlifted from Norway to a hospital in the Uk but the outlook isn't good.

Let us consider what cannot happen, in sea conditions at this time of year. Unless it is a millpond then forget about lashing the port vessel to the larger cruise ship, both would have to be at a standstill. What the Nowegians opted for was 'an at speed' transfer whereby both vessels are locked at the same speed and the smaller vessel literally steers slightly into the side of the larger hull immediately under the entry point. But the rescue ship seems to be more of a regular transfer vessel rather than a lifeboat or specialist ambulance craft.

The resultant vacuum created by the water motion is usually enough to temporarily  'glue' the two vessels together for a brief period ie just long enough to pass the stretcher and patient over.  This technique is used daily by pilots when they jump on and off ships requiring the services of a Pilot. What seems to have happened is that a sheet of ice had formed on surface of the the larger hull and created an ice wall or veneer so no binding or suction of the two vessels could take place. One rogue wave and the pensioner was in the drink...

 The second unusual point is that a standard ambulance stretcher ( probably loaded on board by the Norwegians ) was used with two tie straps, when a more usual kyak style semi enclosed 'rescue litter' stretcher is employed with a variety of ropes and in some cases pulleys.  However this lapse may well have immediately saved the unfortunate lady as she was thrown out of the ambulance stretcher which we can only presume was earlier loaded onto the ship by the norwegians as we commented earlier.

Why didn't the ship run for port? Simply it would take some time to stop, turn and divert the ship and if there was no vacant deep water berth free then a medevac at sea is still required, so this also has to be discounted. However I was on board the RCI Independence of the Seas in February when it did make an unscheduled stop at Gibraltar for all of 8 minutes. To offload a stretcher into a waiting ambulance.  I have also witnessed helicopter landings

Why no helicopter? Probably logistics, the time it would take to scramble and route a helicopter unlike the UK, many other countries do not fully maintain an instant response air service. Finally why did the ship not lanch one of its own tender vessels which also double up as an enclosed  motorised lifeboat for 150 persons?
probably due to the diatance from shore and the possibility of ice fouling the twin rotary propellers.

The sad fact is that it is also 100 years following the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the passengers from that era would also have been dumped into water of a like temperature, many of them died not through drowning but from hypothermia. Mrs Richardson died on Thursday evening. The news was released by the UK hospital on Saturday 23rd April after all relatives had been informed. Our thoughts are with the family and all those concerned in this tragic accident. Several investigations have now been started.


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