Thursday, May 9, 2013

Carnival Cruise Passengers Fall Overboard Off Australia Coast

SYDNEY -- Authorities were conducting an air and marine search Thursday off Australia's east coast for two cruise passengers who were believed to have fallen overboard the night before.

The couple, Australian citizens from New South Wales state, were discovered missing Thursday morning after the Carnival Spirit docked at Sydney's Circular Quay, at the end of a 10-day journey, said New South Wales Police Superintendent Mark Hutchings.

He said surveillance camera footage showed that the couple -- a 30-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman whose names have not been released -- fell from the ship's mid deck Wednesday night, when the ship was about 120 kilometers (65 nautical miles) off the coast of Forster, a city 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Sydney.

"This is a tragic event at the moment, but we're holding out hope we might be able to find these people alive," Hutchings told reporters.

Investigators were having the video enhanced in a bid to determine whether the couple had jumped or had fallen by accident, Hutchings said.

The ship has around 600 surveillance cameras that are constantly monitored, although no one reported seeing the fall at the time.

No life preservers were missing from the ship, Hutchings said. A missing life preserver might have indicated that one of the missing passengers had attempted a rescue.

Jo Meehan, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the search, said an airplane, a helicopter and police boats were searching a 1,000-square-kilometer (300-square-nautical mile) area of sea.

The couple and seven of their family and friends were among 2,680 passengers on a South Pacific cruise. The ship's last stop was Mare Island in New Caledonia, which it left on Monday, bound for Sydney. The couple were discovered missing as passengers disembarked, said Peter Taylor, spokesman for the ship's operator, Carnival Cruise

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