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PACIFIC DAWN: Police to investigate woman falling overboard

UPDATE: The Queensland Police Service will conduct investigations on behalf of the Coroner after receiving a report of a 47-year-old woman missing overboard in waters outside of Australia.

The report was received on April 13.

Initial investigations indicate the Brisbane woman has gone overboard sometime on April 12, 150 nautical miles from New Caledonia.

QPS officers will meet the Pacific Dawn when it arrives at the Port of Brisbane on Sunday morning, April 15 to conduct investigations and work with other agencies as required.

No suspicious circumstances have been identified at this time.

Police said it would be inappropriate to comment further as the investigation is ongoing.

AFTERNOON: The cruise ship from which a woman fell overboard is now heading towards Brisbane after the search for the woman was abandoned early today.

The tragedy happened about 4pm yesterday after the woman went out onto the deck as the Pacific Dawn was being lashed by heavy seas 150 nautical miles west of New Caledonia.

Passengers on board the ship said the woman was feeling sea sick and was knocked overboard by a freak wave.

But the ships's owner P & O have urged caution around versions of events saying so far the cause of the tragedy had not been verified.

The incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner.

 

The Pacific Dawn.
The Pacific Dawn. Mike Richards GLA100316SHIP

 

The Pacific Dawn spent hours yesterday circling in rough seas while staff scoured the ocean for the woman. It remained in the area this morning to continue the search, but authorities confirmed about 7.45am it had ended.

The Captain made an announcement to passengers "with a very heavy heart" confirming the search had been unsuccessful.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest," he said, according to The Courier Mail.

"We are still in the area of the incident, and the weather conditions with the swell three to four metres high, as you can see outside ... the strong wind made our search extremely challenging.

"As a result we have now made the extremely difficult decision to continue our journey towards Brisbane.

"I know I speak on behalf of all of you when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the family."

A crew member saw the woman fall over the side of the ship about 4pm AEST yesterday afternoon, but the exact details - and the woman's age and nationality - have not been released by P & O.

"The difficult decision to suspend the search was made only after expert advice that survival after this length of time in difficult sea conditions and after a full night at sea was not considered possible," a P & O statement on Facebook read.

It's possible the fall was captured on security cameras.

 

The Pacific Dawn.
The Pacific Dawn. Contributed

 

Passengers claimed her husband saw her fall and went into shock. Life rings were immediately thrown into the water, but there was no sign of her.

One passenger posted on Facebook about the dramatic moment the woman fell.

"She leaned over and the ship rocked in heavy seas - her husband tried to catch her but she slipped," the passenger's post read.

Other passengers said children that were near her also witnessed the devastating fall. The woman was believed to be travelling with her children, but it is unclear if they were on the deck with her.

They were being "fully supported" as the Pacific Dawn made its way to Brisbane. It was expected to reach the Queensalnd capital on Sunday.

Others believed she may have been playing bingo before the tragedy as a woman was heard to say she was going outside because she was unwell. They then heard the alarm being sounded and the woman never returned.

P & O today refused to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the fall "out of respect to the family'.

Passenger, Drew Hulton-Smith, said lookouts had been posted "along all the decks".

The mood on board was "sombre", he said.

"A crew member notified the bridge straight away and the 'man overboard' incident response was activated immediately," said P & O spokesman David Jones.

"In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident."

The Australian Maritime Safety Bureau and New Caledonian authorities issued a call for nearby vessels to assist. An AMSA spokeswoman said there are no other rescue boats tasked in the search with the cruise ship alone left to trawl the area.

 

The Pacific Dawn.
The Pacific Dawn. Mike Richards GLA310317SHIP

 

"It would take days for anyone to reach the area it's so remote," the spokeswoman said.

Passenger Jon Trevithick, posted a picture on Twitter at 5.30pm, of a lone rescue ring in the sea. "Horrendous here on ship," he wrote. "Ship going round and round searching".

"We have been told very little," he tweeted. "I didn't know it was a woman. It happened around 5pm. I was on deck and heard someone cry, 'man overboard'. The ship ground to a halt which took a while, of course. It turned around and found the (possibly 2nd) lifebuoy (pictured).

"Not looking good. Nightfall now. Ship still searching."

Asked if it was "just an exercise" he replied: "This is real".

The search area is understood to be about 1000 kilometres northeast of Brisbane and 300 kilometres west of New Caledonia. The ship was in the Coral Sea, bound for Brisbane on the return leg when the incident occurred.

The announcement came over the ship's speakers.

 

The Pacific Dawn.
The Pacific Dawn. Mike Richards GLA100316SHIP

"The boat stopped and turned, life rings were thrown out and we are still searching," the woman said.

"Captain has advised we will continue to search until person is found or until coast guard calls off search."

A Brisbane man holidaying on the ship with his family told AAP conditions in the search area are rough, with 3 to 4 metre swells.

He said little information was being given to passengers about the situation other than they were searching for the missing woman. The ship had been on a week-long cruise of Pacific Islands, leaving Brisbane last Saturday.

The 245-metre long Pacific Dawn has a capacity of more than 1500 guests across 11 guest decks, according to the P & O website.

The 27-year-old ship underwent major refurbishment last year, with new restaurants and cafes, an update interior, and a waterpark added.

- Debbie Schipp and Andrew Koubaridis

NOON: An Ipswich woman who was on board the Pacific Dawn cruise ship when a woman went overboard has revealed the frightening moment the ship was turned around.

The passenger, who was on holiday with her husband, said the crew acted immediately and a man overboard was announced.

She said it happened about 24 hours after the ship left Port Vila to head back to Australia.

"It was very sad and frightening. The ship was immediately turned around however this caused some rolling of the ship to one side and everyone was on that side trying to see anything," the woman said.

"As each minute passed we realised the chances of finding the lady were slim.

A life buoy floats in the sea as the search goes on.
A life buoy floats in the sea as the search goes on.

"We keep asking ourselves what if it was us? We really don't think the situation was handled in the best way."

The passenger claimed a crew member had sight of the lady however no tender boat was deployed.

"We were advised that was not possible due to the conditions," she said.

"Nevertheless I wonder what would happen in an emergency involving the entire ship if the lifeboats were not able to be used?"

The passenger said the ship would dock in Brisbane at 6am on Sunday, 24 hours late.

The ship remained in the area this morning to continue the search but authorities confirmed at 7.45am that the search had been called off. 

The Captain made the announcement to passengers confirming the search had been unsuccessful. 

- Queensland Times 

EARLIER: A Bundaberg woman who is a passenger on the Pacific Dawn cruise ship said the search for a woman who went overboard has been called off. 

The woman said the devastating news was told to passengers this morning.   

"After staying in the area and searching all night and into light this morning, the Captain announced at 8am that unfortunately they have been unable to locate the person and have made the heartbreaking decision, with consultation from marine authorities, to leave the area and push on to Brisbane," she said.   

"May she rest in peace."  

The ship remained in the area this morning to continue the search but authorities confirmed at 7.45am that the search had been called off.  

The Captain made the announcement to passengers confirming the search had been unsuccessful.  

"It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest," he said.  

"We are still in the area of the incident, and the weather conditions with the swell three to four metres high, as you can see outside ... the strong wind made our search extremely challenging.  

"As a result we have now made the extremely difficult decision to continue our journey towards Brisbane.  

"I know I speak on behalf of all of you when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the family."  

P&O Cruises' New-look Pacific Dawn Sails into Brisbane (bow).
P&O Cruises' New-look Pacific Dawn Sails into Brisbane (bow).

EARLIER: A DESPERATE search continues for a woman lost at sea after falling from a Brisbane-bound cruise ship near New Caledonia.

The 245m P&O Pacific Dawn cruise liner spent hours yesterday circling in rough seas while staff scoured the ocean for the woman.   Several passengers said the woman went outside to vomit as she was seasick, and she was thrown overboard when a wave hit the vessel.

A Melbourne passenger said the woman's husband saw her fall and immediately went into shock. He said three life rings were thrown out but returned empty.  

The man, who is staying on deck six, said waves were crashing halfway up the ship.   Conditions were so rough that tender boats were unable to enter the water and as the sun set staff were forced to use the vessel's search lights to scan the ocean waves, a Bundaberg passenger said.  

A Brisbane man holidaying on the ship with his family said conditions in the search area were rough, with 3 to 4 metre swells yesterday afternoon.

"We heard the 'man overboard' announcement around 5pm," the passenger said. "The boat stopped and turned, life rings were thrown out and we are still searching."  

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority and New Caledonian authorities issued a plea for nearby vessels to assist in the search.   But an AMSA spokeswoman last night said there were no other rescue boats tasked in the search with the liner left to trawl the area alone.  

The AMSA this morning said the Pacific Dawn remained in the area searching.   "We are still continuing our search at this time," a spokeswoman said.

A life buoy floats in the sea as the search goes on.
A life buoy floats in the sea as the search goes on.

Passengers last night told The Courier-Mail the mood onbaord was sombre but activities continued.

"To be honest, it's all very sad," one woman said.   "Music continued to play after the announcement, 'man overboard, port side' and tonight the Gatsby night still went ahead."  

Others took to social media with fears for the woman, who they said was travelling with her husband and children.   The ship, which has room for 1546 guests, left Brisbane on Saturday on a seven-day round trip to Vanuatu.

  P&O spokesman David Jones said the woman fell about 4pm, 150 nautical miles west of New Caledonia.  

"A crew member notified the bridge straight away and the 'man overboard' incident response was activated immediately," a statement read.

"In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident."  

 

A ship passenger, who asked not to be named, described the atmosphere onboard as "very sad, solemn and quiet".

  Another passenger said the ship left Port Vila yesterday and was headed back to Brisbane when the woman fell.   "Everything on board is continuing as normal although the mood is somewhat sombre," she said.  

After midnight a passenger from the Gold Coast said the display screen on board suggested the ship was heading back to Brisbane at a speed of 7.5 knots, but there had been no official announcement.  

The 27-year-old Pacific Dawn underwent major refurbishment last year, with new restaurants and cafes, an update interior, and a waterpark added.  

EARLIER: A frantic search is underway for a woman who went overboard on the P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn.

A crew member saw the woman fall over the side of the ship about 4pm AEST, 150 nautical miles west of New Caledonia, the ship's owner P&O said.

"A crew member notified the bridge straight away and the 'man overboard' incident response was activated immediately," spokesman David Jones said in a statement.

"In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident."

The Australian Maritime Safety Bureau and New Caledonian authorities have issued a call for nearby vessels to assist in the search.

The ship at 4.43pm Queensland time was located west of New Caledonia closest to the northern town of Tiabet.

A screen showing the cruise ship's position.
A screen showing the cruise ship's position.

A Bundaberg woman on board the ship said it was travelling to Noumea from Port Vila in Vanuatu en route to Brisbane.

The ship is expected to dock back in Brisbane on Saturday morning after it left last Saturday.

The woman described the scene on board and they are still searching for the missing woman.

"We heard the man overboard announcement around 5pm," she said.

"The boat stopped and turned, life rings were thrown out and we are still searching.

"Captain has advised we will continue to search until person is found or until coast guard calls off search."

The woman said it was now dark out at sea and the search had been going for more than two hours.

She added kids are scared about what is happening on the ship.

The Bundaberg families on board are safe and accounted for, according to the woman on board.

Queensland Police and P&O were contacted for comment but could not be reached.

- Shane Jones and AAP

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