Saturday, August 02, 2008
At least 42 people were hurt as the P&O ship Pacific Sun ran into an intense storm almost 400 miles north of New Zealand. Injuries included broken ribs and limbs, a fractured pelvis, a broken collar bone, and cuts and gashes. P&O denied reports that some people had lost fingers. Passengers were treated by the ship's medical staff but three were taken to hospital for checks when the ship reached Auckland, 24 hours later than it had been scheduled to arrive. There were tearful reunions with anxious relatives waiting on the dockside. Some passengers told how they were flung across the ship, along with crockery and "anything not nailed down", when the ship tried to turn to face its bow into the storm. They said huge waves caught it side-on as it manoeuvred, causing the ship to pitch violently. One passenger said the water lashed as high as the fifth deck. Many of the worst injuries were caused when gambling machines crashed over on top of people. The ship, with 1732 passengers and 671 crew, was returning to Auckland from the islands of Vanuatu at the end of an eight-night cruise. The incident occurred just after dark, as many of the passengers were sitting down to dinner. In an email sent from the ship during the storm, one terrified passenger wrote: "We are nearly on our side. "If we get out of this, it will be a miracle. I won't go to bed tonight, but will sit up by the life rafts. "Please give (my daughter) an extra big hug and kiss from me. Make sure her life is fun. I am so scared." Standing on the terra firma of Auckland's docks after disembarking, holidaymaker Elizabeth Basher, related how she sustained a fractured knee."We were getting a pre-dinner drink at the bar, moved to a safe place to be on the carpet to get some traction, and suddenly it happened, and we were just thrown across towards a plate-glass window." Erica MacGregor, from the New Zealand town of New Plymouth, said: "It was like being in a disaster movie. "There were screams and people crying as they looked for their lost children." Amanda Wakefield said: "We were on the deck and we slid from one side of the deck to the other three times on our stomachs." Sandy Olsen, a spokesman for P&O, said counselling was being offered to passengers and crew who had been shaken by the experience. The company had arranged travel and accommodation for waiting family and friends, and was offering passengers 25 per cent off the price of any future cruise they took. New Zealand maritime officials were inspecting the ship before allowing it to set sail on another cruise tomorrow. There was understood to be no significant damage to the structure of the vessel. Pacific Sun's two sister ships have had problems of their own in recent years. Australian prosecutors say they expect to complete their deliberations later this month on the suspicious death of Dianne Brimble, 42, on board the Pacific Sky in September 2002. Mrs Brimble, an Australian mother of three, was found to have died from a toxic mix of alcohol and the illicit drug Fantasy during a cruise. A coroner's hearing last year ruled that there was enough evidence to charge "known persons" over her death. This week's incident on the Pacific Sun echoed another in July last year, when the Pacific Star was damaged in another severe storm off Vanuatu, severely shaking many of the passengers on board.