Grandmother dies after falling from cruise ship into North Sea

A critically ill British grandmother died after a bungled cruise ship rescue plunged her into the icy North Sea in just her nightdress.

Janet Richardson, 72, of Ousby, near Penrith, fell into the water as crew members tried to transfer her from the cruise ship to a life boat on a stretcher.

According to the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, other passengers screamed in horror as Janet fell off the stretcher into the freezing sea, where she fought to stay afloat for eight minutes without a life jacket.

A hearing this week heard that she was pulled to safety using a long pole, but died in hospital three weeks later.

The inquest heard that the grandmother of eight weighed 18 stone and had a history of ill-health, but that being plunged into the 2C water was a "significant contributing factor" to her death.

Janet had been on a cruise on the Ocean Countess to see the Northern Lights with her husband, George, 80, when she collapsed with a gastrointestinal haemorrhage in March 2011.

The liner was just off the coast of Norway at the time, so the captain decided to transfer her to hospital.

Crew members attempted to pass her to a lifeboat that had pulled up alongside the ship, but at the crucial moment, the two boats, which had not been tied together, began to move apart, and she fell into the sea.

According to the Daily Telegraph, witness Colin Prescott said: "There was abject panic on the cruise ship – that is the only way I can describe it. Voices were raised, almost shrieking."

Janet was treated in Norway before being flown to Cumberland Hospital, Carlisle, where she died on 21 April.

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour told the Daily Mail: "She suffered near-drowning ... Although the eventual cause of death was from natural disease, this episode would have has a serious impact on her condition."

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