Couple will ‘carry on cruising’ despite terrifying rescue from stricken ship

A RETIRED couple from Tunbridge Wells have told of the terrifying moment the engines failed on their cruise liner which resulted in them being airlifted to safety.

Duncan and Tina Cox from Broadwater Down, were on the eighth day of the 12-day ‘In Search of the Northern Lights’ trip, when the ship, the Viking Sky, got into trouble off Norway’s west coast

Mr and Mrs Cox, who booked the holiday two years ago, were among 915 passengers and 458 crew aboard the £300m ship, which had left port in Tilbury, Essex, just over a week earlier.

The vessel became stricken on Saturday after three of its four engines failed while the ocean liner was being battered by 20 ft waves and gale force winds.

“The first we realised something was wrong was when we were having lunch and we noticed the water was being thrown out of the swimming pool,” recalled Mr Cox, 80.

The couple, who regularly holiday on cruise ships, said it was when they came in from the deck that things began to take a turn for the worse.

“The ship began tilting alarmingly, and then the ceiling in the lounge began to fall down,” remembered Mr Cox, a retired hotel supplier.

He continued: “We were all huddled in the lounge. A window broke and water began coming in so some people got wet, and we heard a call for a stretcher; clearly somebody had been badly hurt.”

The alarm sounded around 2pm in the afternoon, which was when the captain made the decision to winch people off the ship to safety.

“There were seven short blasts on the Tannoy followed by a long boom. A voice came over saying ‘this is a real emergency’,” recalled Mr Cox.

“The captain came on saying the engines had failed and he had put out the anchors. All the lights had gone out.

“One woman was having hysterics, screaming and shouting. A call twice went out for stretchers.

“Later, the announcement came there was another ship coming to the rescue and helicopters were on their way – but the ship coming to help us had failed too.”

Passengers had to be hoisted one-by-one from the deck of the vessel but due to the sheer number of people on board, it was not until 3am the next morning that the Tunbridge Wells couple were able to be airlifted to safety, having spent the last 12 hours sat aboard in a lifejacket.

“They winched us off by helicopter in the early hours of the morning,” Mr Cox remembered.

“I went first, and if you can imagine being blown about by 58 mph winds as they winch you off the ship in the middle of the night from a deck that is pitching and rolling.”

His 75-year-old wife went next, for what was for her, the most terrifying thing she had ever experienced.

“I was absolutely petrified. It was terrifying, the worst thing I’ve ever had to do and I was very scared,” she told the Times.

“I don’t like heights. I was hanging with my hands and they were slipping down. There was just a band around my waist. That was all that was around me.”

She believed they were winched 50 feet in the air, before being bundled aboard the helicopter.

“These two winchmen just haul you aboard—it is not very dignifying,” Mr Cox added.

Thankfully, the couple, who have three grandchildren, were uninjured as they touched down in Hustadvika, a small village just north of the town of Molde on Norway’s west coast where a number of ‘amazing’ volunteers were on hand to help.

But not everybody was so lucky. Several passengers were taken off the vessel on stretchers while others needed oxygen. And at least 20 of those winched to safety were injured.

And a cargo vessel trying to reach the stricken cruise liner through the storm also experienced difficulties, resulting in the crew having to abandon the ship.

The crew of the Viking Sky, which still had some passengers on board, was later able to restart one engine and the ship was able to limp back to the coast and anchor about 1.5 miles from land.

Viking Ocean Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen said the events were “some of the worst I have been involved in.”

While Mr and Mrs Cox, who have three grandchildren, say Viking has ‘questions to answer’ over what went wrong, they couldn’t fault the people of Norway.

“They all rallied round to ensure we were all right. They were all volunteers so we cannot thank them enough,” said Mr Cox.

But the couple, who returned home to Tunbridge Wells on Sunday, have not been put off holidaying at sea.

Mr Cox said: “It hasn’t put us of cruising at all. In fact we are going on our next one in June—down the Danube.”

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter