UK & World News

  • 17 February 2014, 6:07

Wave Death Cruise Ship Was 'Badly Maintained'

The widow of a man who died when a freak wave crashed into a cruise ship has claimed the vessel was "improperly maintained".

Helen Swinstead said she told her husband James the windows of the Marco Polo were going to leak before water started pouring in.

The extent of the waves whipped up by the severe storm that hit Britain on Friday was revealed in new photos taken from on board the ship as it sailed past France.

NektariosRigas, who uploaded the pictures to Facebook, described the 20-metre waves as "mountains".

A number of the Marco Polo's 735 mainly British passengers were injured when one of the waves crashed into the ship in the English Channel.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV), which owns the vessel, said it had undergone "stringent and rigorous surveys" and regular inspections.

However, Mrs Swinstead, from Colchester, told Sky News: "I said to my husband - because my father used to make paint - (the window's) going to leak because of the rust.

"There was a rusty puddle on the window sill. I think the ship was improperly maintained.

"It had come from Madeira, I think, before we got on it in January, and they had bad storms then. And there's so much paint on the outside - you probably can't see the rust.

"They'd just slop some more on whenever we got into port."

Christian Verhounig, chief executive of CMV, said the safety of passengers travelling with the company was of "paramount importance".

"Marco Polo undergoes stringent and rigorous surveys and is inspected regularly including a recent annual dry docking survey and certification," he said.

"It is a purpose-built deep sea ocean going liner maintained and serviced in full compliance of strict British and international maritime regulations and is efficiently manned by a professional and dedicated crew."

The Marco Polo was travelling through an area of the English Channel known as the Western Approaches when the wave struck.

It was on its way to its home port of Tilbury, Essex, at the end of a 42-night voyage which had included the Brazilian Amazon and the West Indies.

A female passenger in her 70s was airlifted off the ship, while 14 others were treated for minor injuries.

The wave caused damage to the ship's Waldorf Restaurant.

Mrs Swinstead described the moment the water burst into the area where she was sat with her husband.

"It was quite dreadful," she said. "I was sitting next to him and this window just came in and the sea with it. I was ... well ... we were all very, very wet.

"With our insurance I think I'm entitled to 2,000, which won't even cover getting him home to Colchester.

"I think the shipping company should give some sort of compensation."

She added: "He was a lovely husband. The crew have been fantastic. The captain was much admired."

Others disembarking the 22,000-tonne ship described the scenes on board.

Linda Kogan said: "It was horrendous, I've never been in storms like it. The waves were coming up almost over the ship.

"The ship was at an angle. Some people reported the drawers were falling apart and the wardrobe doors falling off.

"A lady was actually thrown out of bed with the force. We weren't in the restaurant when the windows broke but I think it was really scary."

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