Wife of cruise ship passenger killed by wave criticises vessel

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Media captionHelen Swinstead tells the BBC: "It was real pandemonium with the four windows coming in and people bleeding"

The widow of a cruise ship passenger who died when it was hit by a wave in the English Channel has criticised the vessel as "badly maintained".

James Swinstead, 85, of Colchester, Essex, was killed when a huge wave crashed into British cruise ship Marco Polo during severe storms on Friday.

His widow Helen praised the crew but attacked the state of the ship.

Operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) said the ship was fully compliant with "strict" maritime regulation.

The 22,000 gross tonnage vessel was heading for its home port of Tilbury in Essex at the end of a 42-night voyage when Mr Swinstead died.

Water crashed through a window, injuring a number of the 735 passengers, who were mainly British.

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Media captionA passenger captured footage of the storm, 45 minutes before the wave hit

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

Speaking in Tilbury after the Marco Polo docked, Mrs Swinstead said: "I think it killed him almost instantly.

"The ship was badly maintained. Four windows blew.

"I said to my husband - because my father used to make paint - 'That's going to leak because there was a rusty puddle on the window sill.'

"I expect to hear from the Marco Polo. He was a lovely husband.

"The crew have been fantastic. I think the ship is improperly maintained. It had come from Madeira before we got on it in January and they had bad storms then.

"There's so much paint on the outside you can't see the rust, they just slop some more on when they get to port.

Image copyright Luca Riva
Image caption The ship was heading to Tilbury when the freak wave struck

"It was quite dreadful. I was sitting next to him and this window came in and the sea with it."

Over the past few days the country has been hit by flooding and major storms which have left 15,900 homes without power.

Friday night also saw the death of minicab driver Julie Sillitoe in the storm. She was killed when large chunks of masonry fell on to her Skoda Octavia opposite Holborn Tube station in central London.

'Thrown out of bed'

Another passenger of the Marco Polo, Linda Kogan said of what happened on board: "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.

"One lady said it was just like the films with the foamy water and being swept across the restaurant.

"Some people were stunned but on the whole people were quite stoic. The crew were fantastic. Some of the crew were actually injured as well."

The wave caused damage to the ship's Waldorf Restaurant. The vessel, which has been to the Amazon in South America and to the West Indies, arrived back at Tilbury late on Saturday night.

Christian Verhounig, chief executive of CMV, said: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers and their families affected during this difficult time.

"The safety and comfort of our passengers is and will always be of paramount importance. Marco Polo undergoes stringent and rigorous surveys and is inspected regularly including a recent annual dry docking survey and certification.

"Marco Polo 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. She also has the added advantage of an ice strengthened hull designed for special voyages to the Arctic and Antarctica Polar regions.

"We have been touched by the overwhelming level of support received from passengers who experienced the freak wave incident and the fulsome praise extended to the Captain, his officers and hard working crew and also by many of our customers who cruise with us regularly onboard the much loved Marco Polo."

Following repair work, the Marco Polo is due to set sail on Sunday evening from Tilbury on a 14-night cruise to Norway.

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