While cruise ship accidents are increasing in frequency, it’s not every day that a hero emerges from a tragedy. Although his life came to an early end following a cruise ship overboard accident last week in Australia, paramedic Paul Rossington will always be remembered for his courage, even in his final moments.
Rossington died at 30 years of age two weeks ago while attempting to rescue his girlfriend. Always regarded as an honorable man, the hero jumped off the cruise ship after his girlfriend, who had fallen overboard from the Carnival Spirit. Sadly, neither of the two victims survived the accident, but now, Rossington’s loved ones are paying tribute to the man they say lived a selfless life, always serving the needs of others.
Ambulance service colleagues honored the cruise ship hero at a memorial service in Sydney on Thursday. The paramedic, who worked at Barraba in the New England region of northern NSW, was remembered by his brother Trent as the “bravest, toughest, most honourable man I have ever known.”
His other brother Justin, also praised Rossington’s heroic actions on the night of the tragic overboard accident on May 8, telling him, and several hundred mourners, “You made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The young victim and his girlfriend Kristen Schroder, 27, were sailing onboard the Carnival Spirit with friends and family on a 10-day itinerary when the unspeakable happened. The couple went 65 feet overboard from the ship into the Tasman Sea near Forster, on the NSW mid north coast. Footage of the incident shows Schroder climbing over a railing and standing on the other side facing the waters just before falling overboard. Just seconds later, surveillance tapes captured her boyfriend leaping to the dark waters below to rescue her. Despite an extensive air and sea search of over 500 square nautical miles, neither of the victims’ bodies was recovered.
It has yet to be explained whether Schroder fell by accident or purposefully, but both of the victims’ families describe the pair as a happy one.
Rossington’s sister Lisa, who drove him to the cruise port, also spoke at the memorial, saying: “Never did I think that would be the last time I would say goodbye.”
His father Richard and mother Christeen also mourned for their son, whose life Christeen said, was “far too brief”.
“As a parent you shouldn’t have to outlive your own child,” said Christeen. “He died as he lived, an honourable man.”
NSW Ambulance Service senior chaplain Paul McFarlane also spoke words of praise for the heroic paramedic, remembering him fondly as a kind man who had a natural instinct of helping others.
“We don’t know everything that happened that night, but one thing we do know is that Paul has immediately and instinctively gone over the side of the ship to try to save Kristen’s life,” said McFarlane. “To those who knew him, this heroic action was not surprising in the least. That’s the sort of man he was. He did what was right. He joined Kristen in the water and tried to save someone he cared about.”
Rossington, who was an avid surfer and diver, had a profound love of the sea and never feared the dangers it could bring. His loved ones were not surprised that he did not hesitate in the slightest bit to jump overboard and try to save his girlfriend, but what is strange is the fact that a man who was in such good shape and who was accustomed to the ocean, would perish so quickly.
This cruise ship accident just goes to show that anyone can suffer a debilitating or fatal injury while at sea and it is always imperative that passengers refrain from engaging in activities that might lead to serious incidents and always inform travel partners of their whereabouts. Although cruise lines are responsible for keeping everyone onboard reasonably safe from harm, crew members aren’t always around to monitor accidents nor are they constantly observing footage for signs of injured passengers.
In fact, Carnival claims the Spirit ship has roughly 600 surveillance cameras in operation that are constantly monitored by at least four crew members at any given time, but instead of being surveyed, the staff was busy observing other areas of the ship to notice the victims go overboard, according to Ann Sherry, chief executive of Carnival Australia and Carnival Corp.’s representative in the South Pacific region.
Although the ship may have cameras in place to prevent serious accidents, this was the prime example of a cruise line failing to do its job in monitoring areas and then making an excuse about their negligence in order to avoid liability for the incident.
Rossington had expressed a wish to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over the ocean, which is what his family has planned to do.
“May you rest in peace in the one place you love and know best,” said his brother Justin.
Authorities continue to investigate the cruise passenger disappearance. Several details remain unclear, including what led Schroder to go over the railing in the first place, but sadly, this isn’t the first overboard accident to occur this year. Four cruise passengers fell overboard this year alone, three of whom were onboard Carnival Corp. vessels.
Check back with our Cruise Ship Law Blog for further updates on this harrowing story and for news on other accidents at sea.