Cruise ship fall: Woman rescued after 10 hours in sea off Croatia

Media caption,
'I am very lucky to be alive'

A British woman has survived after falling from a cruise ship off the coast of Croatia, the country's coastguard has said.

Officials said the 46-year-old was rescued 10 hours after falling into the Adriatic Sea - 60 miles offshore - at around midnight on Saturday.

The woman, named as Kay Longstaff, was taken to hospital in the town of Pula.

She said she was sitting at the back of the deck before falling overboard and was "very lucky to be alive".

Speaking to Croatian news channel HRT after stepping off the coastguard patrol boat the Cavtat, she added: "I was in the water for 10 hours, so these wonderful guys rescued me."

She was then taken to hospital in an ambulance.

The rescue vessel's captain, Lovro Oreskovic, said Ms Longstaff was "exhausted" when she was found on Sunday, adding: "We were extremely happy for saving a human life."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Ms Longstaff was helped onto the Cavtat coastguard patrol boat
Image source, PA
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One of the Croatian Coast Guard crew members dived in the sea to haul her out

According to the Sun, Ms Longstaff told one rescuer it had helped that she was fit from doing yoga and that she sang to stop her feeling cold overnight.

David Radas, from the Croatian Ministry of Maritime Affairs, said rescuers were able to work out the exact moment Ms Longstaff fell in the water by checking CCTV from the 965ft long (291m) cruise ship.

"Because they knew the time, they were able to know the exact position of the ship," he told the paper.

Mr Radas told the BBC Ms Longstaff was hypothermic, but overall in "good physical shape" when she was found.

He said the circumstances around how she fell from the Norwegian Star ship were being investigated.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The search was launched at around 6:30 local time after her fall at just before midnight

The Croatian Coast Guard said a ship and an aircraft launched a search at around 06:30 local time on Sunday.

The ship's crew spotted Ms Longstaff in the sea - around one mile from where she fell - at 09:40 and one of the crew dived in the sea to haul her out before taking her to shore.

The Norwegian Star was delayed getting to Venice on Sunday, having also been part of the search operation in the early morning.

"The ship only told us a passenger fell overboard and we spent a few hours searching for her," passenger Bethany Joyce told the BBC.

The 21-year-old from Long Island, New York is currently in Venice with her family, after missing their flight to Toronto on Sunday.

She said disembarkation was "a mess", adding: "(We) understand it was very hectic for them but we think it could have been handled much better."

Image source, Norwegian Cruise Line
Image caption,
The 46-year-old says she was sitting on the back of the deck of the Norwegian Star before falling
Image source, DivaKnevil /Twitter
Image caption,
Part of the cruise ship has been cordoned off

A statement from Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed that a guest had gone overboard while the ship was on its way from Vargarola to Venice.

It said: "We are pleased to advise that the guest was found alive, is currently in stable condition, and has been taken ashore in Croatia for further treatment.

"We are very happy that the individual, who is a UK resident, is now safe and will soon be reunited with friends and family."

The Foreign Office confirmed it had been notified of the incident.

How to survive for 10 hours in the water

Media caption,
Watch BBC reporter Natalie Crockett try out the RNLI floating technique

Professor Mike Tipton, an expert on surviving extreme environments, says the woman in this case had a "perfect" survival situation with warm, calm water.

"The water temperature would have been about 28-29C which is a little bit warmer than a swimming pool," he says, meaning she would not have have suffered cold water shock.

And the fact she "wasn't being battered by waves" meant she could float, swim and stay near to the spot where she fell in to maximise her chance of being rescued.

Other factors which have an impact on your chance of survival:

  • If you are female, you will typically have a higher percentage of body fat which helps with floating and keeping warm
  • Conserving energy by floating on your back rather than swimming, according to the RNLI
  • A calm, positive mental attitude, Prof Tipton says, can help someone endure a long period of survival

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