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Video: Father-of-two James Swinstead of Essex killed after freak wave hits cruise ship

10:04 16 February 2014

James Swinstead

James Swinstead


The wife of an Essex man killed after a freak wave hit a cruise ship in the English Channel has paid tribute to her “lovely husband”.


James Swinstead, 85, from Eight Ash Green near Colchester, died “almost instantly” after water rushed on board the British cruise ship Marco Polo as it was battered by waves during severe storms.

The 22,000-tonne vessel, operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV), was heading for its home port of Tilbury in Essex at the end of a 42-night voyage when the incident happened on Valentine’s Day.

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

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

Mr Swinstead, a father-of-two, was on the cruise with his wife Helen.

Speaking in Tilbury after the ship docked, she said: “I think it killed him almost instantly.”

She added: “It was quite dreadful. I was sitting next to him and this window came in and the sea with it.

“We were all very, very wet. I think a woman was taken to hospital and my husband was going to get on the helicopter but he died before they could get him on it.”

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 last night.

Passengers began disembarking the ship from 7am this morning.

Linda Kogan said: “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.”

Following the incident, CMV said: “CMV regrets to advise that earlier today their cruise ship m/s Marco Polo, en-route to her home port of Tilbury from the Azores, was hit by a freak wave during adverse sea conditions in the south western approaches of the English Channel.

“One elderly passenger has died and a further passenger has been airlifted for further shore-side medical assistance. The vessel sailed from Tilbury on January 5 and is carrying 735 mainly British passengers and 349 crew.

“Our thoughts are very much with these passengers and their families during this difficult time.”

Following repair work, the Marco Polo is due to set sail this evening from Tilbury on a scheduled 14-night cruise to Norway and the Land of the Northern Lights.



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