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Sick boat passenger dropped in sea

A grandmother taken ill on a cruise ship fell into the freezing Arctic Ocean after being dropped by paramedics transferring her to a rescue boat.

It took eight minutes to recover Janet Richardson, 73, from the icy waters.

Mrs Richardson, from Penrith, Cumbria, was travelling with her husband George, 78, on the cruise ship Ocean Countess.

She was taken to hospital in Norway and later transferred to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, where she is still being treated.

Mrs Richardson had been struck down with internal bleeding on the voyage from Hull to Norway on a trip to see the Northern Lights.

The captain of the Ocean Countess, operated by UK company Cruise and Maritime Voyages, had called for a rescue boat to take her to hospital. As she was being lifted from the ship to the rescue boat, her stretcher slipped from the grasp of the rescuers and she fell into the water.

In a statement, Cruise and Maritime Voyages said: "On March 29 during the homeward leg of a two-week Land of The Northern Lights Cruise, Mrs Janet Richardson, one of our British passengers travelling on board Ocean Countess, became ill and was in need of immediate medical disembarkation.

"Mrs Richardson was suffering from internal bleeding and an emergency call was made by the ship to the Norwegian rescue authorities. A rescue craft was provided by the authorities and while the rescue crews were seeking to transfer the stretcher into the rescue craft Mrs Richardson fell into the water. Mrs Richardson was rescued and immediately transferred to the Norwegian port of Bodo, approximately two nautical miles away and was transferred to the local hospital."

The statement went on: "The incident is subject to an ongoing formal investigation by the ship owners and Norwegian rescue authorities. Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the cruise operators, have been assured that the incident is being fully investigated to establish how the accident occurred."

Cruise and Maritime Voyages marketing director Chris Coates said: "Our heartfelt sympathies are with Mrs Richardson and her family after what must have been a traumatic experience. We would like to reassure all of our passengers that health and safety is of paramount importance to Cruise and Maritime Voyages and we will of course be co-operating fully with the investigation, which is still ongoing."

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