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Cruise wave death inquest to begin

An inquest into the death of a man killed when a freak wave hit a cruise ship in the English Channel will be held today.

James Swinstead, 85, died after water rushed on board the British cruise ship Marco Polo as it was battered by waves during severe storms in February last year.

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 from Colchester, Essex, 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 went on: "I think the shipping company should give some sort of compensation. The ship was badly maintained. Four windows blew.

"The crew have been fantastic. I think the ship is improperly maintained. It had come from Madeira before we got on it in January and they had bad storms then.

"There's so much paint on the outside you can't see the rust, they just slop some more on when they get to port.

"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."

Following the incident, CMV said it would not comment on Mrs Swinstead's remarks, but the ship was later deemed fit to sail after police and port authority inspections.

CMV spokesman Paul Foster said: "Police and Port Health Authority people came on board and conducted their own investigations.

"They had the power to detain the vessel if they considered it was unseaworthy or if regulations were not being followed. "

The inquest is due to be held at Essex Coroner's Court this afternoon.

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