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P&O dilemma and statement on tragic death at sea

April 18, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

P&O Cruises Australia has thanked trade media for their responsible coverage of last week’s tragic incident in which a Brisbane mother went overboard from Pacific Dawn and was lost at sea.

Unsubstantiated rumours swept social media after the event about a freak wave washing the woman overboard or pitching her into the sea. The truth was less extraordinary, but no less tragic. See:  How did Brisbane mother lost at sea end up overboard?

P&O contrasted the trade media coverage with “the unfounded speculation that dominated much of the mainstream media coverage”.

Social media gossip about a freak wave, and a tale that the woman had felt seasick and had gone to the rail to be sick and then lost her footing, proved to be incorrect.

P&O faced a dilemma. It did not wish to add to the distress of an already grieving family, and yet there was a need to set the facts straight. The line has its own reputation, and that of the larger cruise industry, to protect.

Modern cruise ships are extremely safe. It would do the industry no good to have prospective cruise passengers believing that cruise ships are places where you can be swept overboard by a wave, or slip into the sea while being sick.

The reality of the situation was soon established, with the help of the police and CCTV footage.

It was P&O spokesman David Jones who acted at the weekend to scotch the rumours.

“We are rejecting a lot of the speculation about the Pacific Dawn incident,” he stated.

“In line with normal procedure the Pacific Dawn incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner for appropriate inquiries. Out of respect for the family we will not add to P&O Cruises’ official statements.

“However, media speculation of a freak wave and sea sickness apparently based on social media reports is not supported by the facts. There is nothing to suggest anything of this kind,” Jones said.

P&O said later its aim throughout the incident and its aftermath had been to protect “the privacy of the family and the dignity and legacy of our missing guest”.

In pursuance of that aim, P&O released the following statement following Pacific Dawn’s return to Brisbane. A spokesperson for P&O pointed out that the CCTV footage provided to the police “portrays a devoted and loving couple who, in different circumstances, could have been any couple on any cruise on any day”.

The P&O media statement, issued after the ship docked reads:

Pacific Dawn returned to Brisbane this morning and, prior to arrival at the Portside Cruise Terminal, the Captain thanked disembarking guests for their sensitivity and support for the family who suffered such a devastating loss during the cruise. The family has been supported on board by senior crew members since the incident and Care-trained staff met the ship on arrival this morning. We have done everything possible to respect and protect the privacy of the family. 

Counselling by a professional Counsellor who was also on hand today has been offered to guests and crew wanting access to this support. P&O Cruises is assisting Queensland Police in their inquiries into the incident as the lead authority acting on behalf of the State Coroner. As anticipated, police went on board Pacific Dawn on arrival this morning to begin their inquiries. Allowing the police to determine what happened in this tragic incident is the appropriate course. We remain concerned that much of the speculation and versions of events given in recent days are not supported by the facts. The police inquiries on behalf of the Coroner will help put the speculation to rest.

With Pacific Dawn’s arrival, we will be able to give police CCTV footage providing an unobstructed view of what happened and portraying an obviously devoted and loving couple. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and hope that they will find comfort in their grief.

Written by Peter Needham

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