15 Feb 2014

‘A wall of seawater’: witness tells of cruise ship horror

A passenger on the Marco Polo tells Channel 4 News about the moment a freak wave hit the cruise ship, killing one man.

An 85-year-old man died on Friday after the 22,000-tonne ship was hit by a freak wave in the English Channel.

The man was airlifted off the vessel along with a woman in her 70s, but later died. About 10 other people suffered minor injuries and were treated on board.

Passenger Allan Cooper told Channel 4 News: “We were sitting at a table in the Marco Polo’s Waldorf restaurant, located on deck six of the cruise ship. The table was on the starboard side. Lunch was just being served and most people were waiting for their orders.

“The seas, visible through the windows, were very rough. Waves were peaking nearly parallel to the windows. Furniture in the restaurant was beginning to shift, so people were holding on to tables and chairs.

“Suddenly there was a very loud ‘bang’ and the daylight in the room reduced as a wall of seawater covered most of the starboard windows. The bang was the breaching of a forward window in the restaurant.”

Marco Polo cruise ship in the Antarctic (Getty)

Wall of water

A wall of water flooded in the broken window, which appeared to have shattered under the force of the water. Water flooded in to a depth of about three to five inches.

“Furniture was thrown around and table covers, cutlery and utensils were scattered about. Water jetted into about 25 per cent of the occupied tables and quickly spread.

“Pandemonium broke out. Some people were drenched and most people were wet but people were very well-behaved, looking out for each other, whilst all anxious to get out of the danger area.

“Restaurant staff responded immediately and assisted customers, a number with cuts and bruises, to evacuate the restaurant. Some staff and crew were themselves injured. A number of passengers were visibly nervous and unsure of what to do looking for advice and guidance.”

The deck of the Marco Polo in calmer seas (Getty)

Mr Cooper added: “On leaving the restaurant, I went up three decks to my cabin, when another large wave hit the ship and I was thrown across a connecting passageway and ended up in a bundle against a wall.

“I was rescued by fellow passengers who called the ships doctors and crew. I was stretchered to the sick bay four decks below with a cut head and extensive bruising.

“There were about 12 injured passengers, walking wounded in the sick bay. The staff were very efficient and caring. Most injuries were head cuts and bruise and all seemed to be related to the incident of the freak wave.

“It is possible that a couple of passengers were injured by other weather events.

“The weather throughout was appalling.”

The Marco Polo was on its way to Tilbury in Essex after touring the Amazon in South America and the West Indies.