UK & World News
Pensioner Sea Fall Inquest: Narrative Verdict
A coroner has ruled that failings by rescuers which led to a pensioner being dropped into the Arctic Ocean were a "significant factor" in her death.
Janet Richardson, 72, from Cumbria, was taken ill while on a cruise to Norway from Hull in April 2011.
The inquest into her death at Carlisle Coroners Court heard how as she was being transferred from the ship to a boat waiting to take her to hospital, rescuers dropped the stretcher she was on and she plunged into the "icy" water.
It was a "number of minutes" before she was pulled from the sea. She died three weeks later in hospital.
Fellow passenger on the cruise, Colin Prescott from Lancashire, witnessed what happened and told the inquest there was "abject panic" on board the ship at the time.
He told Sky News that as he watched the stretcher being passed between the boats "the two vessels separated and the three people on board the little rescue craft had no chance of hanging on".
"As the stretcher fell the people on board the cruise ship couldn't hold the handles any longer and she just slipped into the water," he said.
"I was terrified. It was very frightening as you can imagine, someone in that kind of water, it was very, very cold."
The inquest heard that Mrs Richardson had a history of ill health including problems with her kidneys and liver.
The coroner recorded a narrative verdict, noting that Mrs Richardson was not wearing a life jacket and the cruise ship and rescue boat were not tied together.
He concluded that although Mrs Richardson died as a consequence of her underlying health conditions, the immersion in cold sea water was a significant factor and accelerated her death.
Mrs Richardson's husband, George, was at the two day inquest and told Sky News the cruise to see the Northern Lights had been "a trip of a lifetime" for his wife.
Speaking after the verdict he said: "There have been serious shortcomings in the way the evacuation of Janet was handled and I hope that lessons have been learnt."
He described his wife as "a very enthusiastic person in everything she did".
The coroner said the incident should never have happened and confirmed he has written to the Norwegian rescue service and the cruise operator to question their procedures.