Ocean Countess Rescue: Sick Grandmother Dropped off Cruise Ship into Freezing Arctic
Janet Richardson was sailing aboard The Ocean Countess with her husband on a trip to see the Northern Lights. After she began to feel dizzy and ill – reportedly suffering from internal bleeding – she was assessed by the ship's doctor who recommended her transfer to an onshore hospital.
Paramedics and a lifeboat were called.
The lifeboat pulled alongside the cruise ship, and Richardson was passed between the vessels on a stretcher held by six men. That's when the situation took a turn for the worst.
"The vessels, which hadn't been latched together, suddenly moved apart by several feet as they were transferring her," passenger Colin Prescott told The Sun. "[This] caused the rescue crews to drop the stretcher into the sea."
Conflicting reports say it took rescuers between four and eight minutes to pull Richardson from the water. The water temperature was reportedly -3 Celsius or about 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I just saw the end of the stretcher go in. It was very traumatic to see her fall in. I thought I was going to lose her," Richardson's husband George told The Sun.
When she was finally removed from the freezing sea, Richardson was given mouth to mouth and her temperature stabilized. She was taken to a hospital in Norway.
After making some progress, she was transferred to a hospital in England. She remains in intensive care, being treated for both injuries sustained during her ordeal and other previous conditions, according to MSNBC.
"The authorities over there say health and safety is paramount," said George. "But if they'd wanted to be totally safe they could have gone into port or held the lifeboat to the ship with a rope or something."
Apparently, going into port would have caused the ship extra expense and delays.
The Richardsons' ship, The Ocean Countess, was operated by the Cruise and Maritime Voyages fleet under charter from the Majestic International Cruises Group.
An investigation into the incident is being launched by the ship's owners and Norwegian rescue authorities, reports USA Today.
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