Woman fell at least ’40 metres’ from top deck of cruise liner

A major manhunt off the New Caledonia coast has been called off after a woman was spotted going overboard on the Pacific Dawn. (P&O)
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The woman who plummeted from the Pacific Dawn cruise ship fell at least 40 metres into rough waters from the top deck of the vessel, 9NEWS understands.

It can also be revealed P&O is disputing reports the woman was knocked overboard by a freak wave and that she was suffering from sea sickness.

Government officials confirmed 9NEWS the search for the missing woman was called off at 5am – 13 hours after she was seen by a crew member falling over the side of the ship 150 nautical miles west of New Caledonia.

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The bad conditions coupled with cold water temperatures mean there was “no chance of survival”, officials said.

The captain of the Pacific Dawn cruise ship made an announcement to passengers this morning, saying it was with a “heavy heart” they would be returning to Brisbane after failing to find the missing woman.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest,” the captain said announced to passengers.

“We are still in the area of the incident, and the weather conditions with the swell three to four metres high, as you can see outside…the strong wind made our search extremely challenging.

At around 1.30am, word came from the ship that the liner was around 300km off New Caledonia at the time of the incident but the search was called off at 5am this morning. Picture: 9NEWS.


“As a result we have now made the extremely difficult decision to continue our journey towards Brisbane.

“I know I speak on behalf of all of you when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

The cruise liner – which was on a week-long tour of Pacific islands – is heading towards Brisbane.

Queensland Police will meet the vessel and begin an investigation when it arrives.

One passenger tweeted this image from the ship, saying the conditions were “horrendous” and that during the search the cruise was circling repeatedly trying to find the woman. Picture: Twitter/Jonathan Trevithick.

9NEWS was earlier told the woman went out onto the boat’s deck because she was feeling ill when a large wave washed up onto the ship and swept her overboard around 4pm AEST yesterday while her husband was watching nearby.

“A crew member notified the bridge straight away and the ‘man overboard’ incident response was activated immediately,” spokesman David Jones said in a statement.

“In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority and New Caledonian authorities issued a call for nearby vessels to assist in the search.

The atmosphere onboard the ship has been described as “grim”, with one passenger, who requested not to be named, saying everyone appeared “very sad, solemn and quiet”.

The atmosphere onboard the ship has been described as “very sad, solemn and quiet” as the search continues. (9NEWS).

Another passenger, Jonathan Trevithick, posted an image on Twitter of a life ring floating in the water and said the situation was “horrendous”.

A Brisbane man holidaying on the ship with his family, who also requested not to be identified, said conditions in the search area are rough, with three-to-four metre swells.

He said little information was given to passengers about the situation other than they were searching for the missing woman.

At around 1.30am word came from the ship that the search was still underway and that the liner was around 300km off New Caledonia at the time of the incident.

An AMSA spokeswoman described the conditions as “poor”, saying there were 30-knot winds and it was pitch black.

Passengers onboard a different P&O cruise liner, the Pacific Aria, which came into dock this morning told TODAY the conditions in waters in the south Pacific during their trip were choppy.

“It was pretty rough out there yesterday,” one passenger said.

“We had sick family as well… (It’s) devastating for her family.” – AAP

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