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Australian deserves award after girlfriend cruise ship tragedy: inquest

The cruise ship Carnival Spirit is seen docked in Sydney Harbour, in April 2015  © AFP

The cruise ship Carnival Spirit is seen docked in Sydney Harbour, in April 2015

SYDNEY, Jun 9 – A man who jumped off a cruise ship to try and save his girlfriend after she plunged overboard in the dark should receive Australia’s highest bravery award, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Paul Rossington, 30, and Kristen Schroder, 26, were onboard the Carnival Spirit on 8 May 2013 heading back to Australia following a 10-day Pacific Islands cruise, with their disappearance only noticed after they failed to disembark in Sydney.

It sparked a massive air and sea search after surveillance footage showed the pair going overboard from their cabin balcony just before 9:00pm when the boat was about 60 nautical miles off the New South Wales coast.

An inquest heard that the pair, both Australian, had been arguing earlier in the evening and that Schroder apparently slipped after climbing over the fifth-level balcony. Rossington jumped in to try and save her.

“I think (Kristen) has slipped and fallen as she’s holding onto the rails,” said Detective Sergeant Michael O’Keefe, the officer in charge of the case.

“She holds that rail for approximately four seconds then hits the railing on the third deck and topples and somersaults into the water.

“When (Paul) has seen her slip he’s jumped out of bed and when she’s fallen he’s gone straight over after her.”

O’Keefe added that “he must have known that jumping out would most likely end with him losing his life” and called for Rossington to be awarded the Cross of Valour, Australia’s highest bravery honour.

Their bodies have never been recovered and the inquest heard there was little chance either survived for long.

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After the ship docked, Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry said safety and security were the number one priority for the cruise industry and such incidents were rare.

She added that the heights of railings on ships were regulated, and on this particular vessel they were higher than required by international protocols.

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