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How did Brisbane mother lost at sea end up overboard?

April 16, 2018 Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

Police yesterday shed dramatic new light on circumstances surrounding the death of a 47-year-old Brisbane mother, travelling with her husband and three children aboard P&O’s Pacific Dawn, who ended up plunging 40 metres from the ship’s top deck into the Coral Sea.

The horrendous incident happened about 4pm last Thursday. Initially some reports said the woman had apparently lost her footing after going to the deck railing to be sick during rough seas.

Other reports said she had been swept overboard by a freak wave – but a startlingly different version of events unfolded yesterday after police boarded the ship and later viewed CCTV footage.

The tragedy was reported around the world, with a passenger telling Brisbane’s Courier-Mail that the woman, feeling seasick, went to vomit over the side – and then went overboard into the seas off New Caledonia, with her husband collapsing in shock at the sight.

A spokesman for the cruise line, however, rejected that account, saying: “Media speculation of a freak wave and sea sickness apparently based on social media reports is not supported by the facts.”

Queensland police yesterday supported the cruise line’s version of events. P&O staff and police said footage showed the woman talking to her husband on the top deck on Thursday afternoon before she took two steps back and deliberately propelled herself from the left side of the ship into the water, the Brisbane Times reported.

“The missing person did not accidentally fall … (and) did not fall as a result of a freak wave,” Brisbane region duty officer Inspector Rob Graham told the news publication.

“I can say that the missing person did make intentional actions to propel herself overboard.”

Inspector Graham said the woman’s husband tried to grab her legs as she went over the railing, but it was too late. The inspector said there were no indications alcohol or seasickness had played a part.

“These are a tragic set of circumstances on what should have been a week-long holiday of a lifetime,” Inspector Graham said. He urged the community to be “open and honest about mental health”.

When the woman disappeared overboard, the ship turned back immediately and began circling for hours in a desperate but fruitless search in three-to-four-metre swells. Lifebuoys were thrown into the sea, illuminated by searchlights after sunset in the hope the woman might reach one, or be seen from the ship.



On Friday, P&O let passengers know that a “special CARE trained crew” was looking after the heartbroken family as the ship sailed back to Brisbane, docking there yesterday morning.

Authorities later confirmed the search had been called off at about 7.30am on Friday morning, with the captain making an announcement to let passengers know 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,” the captain told passengers after the sea search concluded.

“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 decision to call off the search was made after expert medical advice on survival time considered surviving in such sea conditions over a full night was not possible.

Another passenger described the atmosphere aboard after the incident as “very sad, solemn and quiet”.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. AgentGerko says:

    Anyone who has been on a cruise ship would know that the railings are too high to just “fall overboard”, unless you’ve actually climbed up or sat on the railings. It would take a truly massive freak wave to pick someone up from the top deck and lift them over the railing, Almost every time you hear of someone ‘falling’ overboard it comes out that they were either drunk, suicidal or propelled by someone else. I cannot even begin to imagine what was in this womans mind that would cause her to take this action knowing here three children were on board.

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