A coroner is to recommend man-overboard briefings on Carnival Cruise Lines ships after hearing the tragic tale of a couple who died at sea.
The inquest at NSW Coroner’s Court heard Kristen Schroder, 26, never meant to jump over the side of the Carnival Spirit in May 2013, but was making a “dramatic gesture” to test her boyfriend Paul Rossington, 30.
She was, said Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon, unafraid of heights and had climbed over the balcony of their cabin.
Mr Dillon suggested she was more than likely in a heightened state of emotion at the time – she had been seeing a therapist to treat depression and anxiety – and did not mean to fall off the ship.
When she did, paramedic Mr Rossington instinctly jumped in to help save her. But once Ms Schroder and Mr Rossington had fallen off the ship “their deaths were inevitable”, he said.
The corner recommended Mr Rossington for a Cross of Valour for his bravery, and said he suggests Carnival Australia consider specific briefings to passengers about what to do in the event of a man or woman going overboard.
In response, Carnival Australia has this to say: “We thank NSW Deputy Coroner Hugh Dillon for his compassionate conduct of the inquest and welcome his recommendations. Specific information on how to respond to a man overboard has been included in the mandatory safety drills conducted on board all Carnival Cruise Line ships based in Australia and abroad.”
This case, he told the court, is “more distressing than most because of the loneliness of their deaths in a large, dark ocean” and because they went on the trip as a way of trying to mend their relationship.
“Man overboard events are rare, but less rare than ships sinking,” he said.
Denise Minakowski, director of shore-side operations, made it known at the inquest earlier this month that her company has been trialling man-overboard technology such as infrared technology and GPS wristbands since 2006 – but they are yet to find a reliable solution, as what works on land doesn’t translate to the unpredictable elements of the sea.
“The cruise ship industry as a whole wants this technology – we want to know when someone goes overboard,” she said.
At this point in time, posters about what to do in the case of “man overboard” can be found throughout the common areas of ships.
If you need somebody to talk to, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.