Mystery of Australian pair’s cruise liner fall

The Carnival Spirit at Sydney's Circular Quay. Picture: AFP/Getty
The Carnival Spirit at Sydney's Circular Quay. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Police investigating the deaths of a couple who plunged from a cruise ship off the Australian coast are working on the theory that the man tried to save his girlfriend but both ended up falling overboard.

Video footage from aboard the Carnival Spirit cruise liner appears to show a young woman jumping from the deck before her panic-stricken boyfriend follows her over the railing about 20 seconds later, it has been revealed.

A description of the security footage was given by police yesterday as they called off their search for paramedic Paul Rossington, 30, and his estate agent girlfriend Kristen Schroder, 27, from Tamworth, New South Wales.

They are presumed dead.

Detectives who spent the day enhancing and analysing surveillance footage from the ship said Ms Schroder appeared to jump from the mid-deck, followed a seconds later by Mr Rossington.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the couple’s fall and they were investigating the possibility Ms Schroder jumped and her boyfriend tried to rescue her. Police were questioning family, friends and passengers in a bid to find out what happened. “The footage alone won’t tell the whole story,” New South Wales Police superintendent Mark Hutchings said.

The ship, heading to Sydney, was approximately 75 miles off the coastal town of Forster in New South Wales, when the pair went overboard shortly before 9pm on Wednesday night. They were reported as missing on Thursday after the ship docked the next morning at Sydney’s Circular Quay after a 10-day journey.

Relatives declined to answer questions about whether Ms Schroder, who recently split from her husband but continued to use his name, might have jumped.

Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry defended the security on board the ship and said it was unlikely their fall into the ocean was an accident. She said the barriers on the ship were two inches higher than the international standard.

Stephen Leahy, head of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters, said that if the couple fell accidentally, they could have survived until yesterday, noting that the ocean was calm and fairly warm, and describing Mr Rossington as very fit.

“He has a very good understanding … of survival techniques and his level of fitness will help him,” Mr Leahy told broadcaster ABC.

“He’ll also be able to help his partner. The chances of two young people surviving are very, very good, and certainly from our perspective, we haven’t given up hope.”

The air and sea search covered 1,800 square miles of ocean before being called off in failing light yesterday without finding any sign of the couple, police said in a statement.

The night-time search had involved heat-seeking infrared equipment, and Mr Hutchings said no life jackets were missing which might have indicated that one of the missing passengers had attempted a rescue.

The couple were among 2,680 passengers on a South Pacific cruise.