Woman overboard not an accident

Cruise Tragedy: ‘Husband tried to save her’

POLICE have detailed the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a Brisbane woman overboard P&O; cruise ship Pacific Dawn, confirming it was an intentional act.

Officers are investigating the disappearance of Brisbane mother of three Natasha Schofield, 47, after the ship docked in Brisbane early this morning - two days after the search for a passenger was called off.

Queensland Police Inspector Rob Graham today said the overboard incident was a deliberate act.

"This wasn't an accident," he said.

"Let's be open and honest about mental health.

"It's a tragic end to what should've been a lifetime holiday experience for a loving family."

Natasha Schofield went overboard from the Pacific Dawn.
Natasha Schofield went overboard from the Pacific Dawn.

Mrs Schofield, of Highgate Hill, was on the cruise with her husband and three children - two girls and a boy, aged between 12 and 16. Her husband witnessed the incident and tried to catch her as she went over, police said.

"What you've got is a loving husband who was there when his wife departed," Inspector Graham said.

"Her husband was standing right next to her when she went over.

"Her husband tried to grab on to her ... her legs ... but she fell."

Inspector Rob Graham said passengers had not been told the overboard incident was a deliberate act. He confirmed it was an intentional act when speaking to media this morning. Picture: AAP/ John Gass
Inspector Rob Graham said passengers had not been told the overboard incident was a deliberate act. He confirmed it was an intentional act when speaking to media this morning. Picture: AAP/ John Gass

Inspector Graham said police don't believe the children were in the area where she died.

"We can only hope they didn't see," he said.

He said "we're just lucky that there's not two people missing".

Mrs Schofield's body has not been found and she is presumed dead.

Officers reviewed CCTV footage and interviewed witnesses before making the announcement this morning that the overboard incident was a deliberate act.

P&O Pacific Dawn arrives at Portside wharf in Brisbane after a woman fell overboard off the coast of New Caledonia. Sunday April 15, 2018. (AAP image, John Gass)
P&O Pacific Dawn arrives at Portside wharf in Brisbane after a woman fell overboard off the coast of New Caledonia. Sunday April 15, 2018. (AAP image, John Gass)

CCTV showed the woman and her husband walking along the cruise deck after going for dinner before she went overboard, Inspector Graham said.

"They were walking along ... stopped for a while, leaning over and then the intentional act took place," he said.

Crew on-board Pacific Dawn searching for the missing lady Thursday night.
Crew on-board Pacific Dawn searching for the missing lady Thursday night.

Witnesses had earlier said the woman had been watching onboard activities moments before the incident and that they'd seen her leaning over the edge, thinking she was vomiting.

Her distraught husband collapsed in shock after the incident, according to witnesses.

Inspector Graham said passengers were not told the act was intentional.

A guard outside the cruise terminal this morning. All passengers remained onboard the ship at 6.15am.
A guard outside the cruise terminal this morning. All passengers remained onboard the ship at 6.15am.

He said the tragic events would impact all passengers.

"Every one of these passengers (are) affected in some way," he said.

He praised the professionalism and co-operation of P&O, saying they had welfare support crew onboard including psychologists.

The P&O Pacific Dawn cruise ship docks in the Port of Brisbane. Picture: AAP/ Robert Shakespeare
The P&O Pacific Dawn cruise ship docks in the Port of Brisbane. Picture: AAP/ Robert Shakespeare

The cruise operator, Carnival Australia, said it was co-operating fully with the police investigation.

"We will be able to give police CCTV footage providing an unobstructed view of what happened and portraying an obviously devoted and loving couple," Carnival said in a statement.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the family and hope that they will find comfort in their grief."

Cruise ship Pacific Dawn and it's route. The Brisbane woman fell overboard near New Caledonia as the ship was returning to Queensland.
Cruise ship Pacific Dawn and it's route. The Brisbane woman fell overboard near New Caledonia as the ship was returning to Queensland.

The ship searched for the woman when she went missing, about 150 nautical miles off New Caledonia, from about 4pm on Thursday to about 7.30am on Friday before the search was called off and the ship started its two-day return to Brisbane.

A P&O spokesman earlier said expert advice was that "survival after this length of time in difficult sea conditions and after a full night at sea was not considered possible".

The captain gave the news to other passengers in a heartbreaking announcement over a public address system.

"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.

 

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

P&O said in a letter to passengers on Friday that the woman's family was being looked after by a "special care trained crew" as the ship made its 62-hour journey back to Brisbane.

Police will now prepare a report for the coroner.

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