January 7, 2005, was our last day at sea after a 10-night New Year’s Eve cruise on the Pacific Sky out of Brisbane, Australia.
At approximately 8:30 that evening, we (Jeanett & I, Andrew, Christopher, Rebecca, Kane Kipniak, Mathew Flynn, & Michael McConnell), all enjoyed a dinner together.
At 10:30 PM, following the dinner, we all went to see a final show in the lounge. Around 11:45, when the show had ended, we all said “Good Night” and went our separate ways. Jeanett & I asked Christopher & Andrew to come to our cabin early the next morning, because Jeanett, Rebecca, Kane & myself were getting off the ship fairly early to fly back home to Victoria, Australia, while the others were just going to the gold coast (QLD). They left to spend the remaining money on their cruise cards, while we chose to walk around the ship, before heading to bed. That was the last time we saw Andrew!
At about 3:30AM, we received a call in our cabin, informing us that Andrew had gone overboard.
Some of the crewmembers came to our room (Cruise Director, 1st Officer, etc.) to tell us that they had turned the ship around and had found Andrew swimming about 30 meters from the ship. They claimed to have him back onboard within 20 minutes.
Immediately, I went to Rebecca’s cabin to tell them what had happened, but when I returned, Christopher and Mat were at my cabin and explained what they had seen and what they had done…
After the show, they had gone to one of the bars (1:00 AM). By that time, their cruise cards were shut down, so they went back to their room, where the “duty free” alcohol had been delivered. The boys got a bit noisy, so a security staff member sent them back to the deck, where they ordered pizza.
Christopher said that Andrew was out on the open deck, but was unhappy about something; however, he seemed to be doing fine. When Christopher left to get the pizza, a girl ran in screaming, saying that Andrew had gone overboard.
Christopher ran to the back of the ship and was about to go overboard to save Andrew, but, by this time, Andrew was too far away from the ship. Had it not been for Mathew stopping Christopher, we would have lost him too. Both threw tables & chairs over the deck, hoping that Andrew would grab onto one, hold on, and keep himself afloat.
The alarm was sounded and the crewmembers tossed a beacon into the water, while a couple of search lights scanned the water. A hand-held torch would have thrown more light!
It took 20 minutes for the ship to turn around and go back to where Andrew had originally gone overboard.
From what we have been told (and from what Christopher had seen), the first rescue boat launched had jammed and they were unable release it; however, P&O denies this fact! When the second boat was launched, the engine wouldn’t start! When they finally got it started, it headed in the wrong direction. All this time Andrew is still swimming to save his life.
The 1st officer informed me that he had thrown a life-ring, which landed 10-meters from Andrew, but Andrew obviously was unable to see it in the 2-meter swells.
Passengers told the boys that they could hear Andrew yelling for help. At approximately 2:35 AM, one of the crewmembers had seen Andrew go under and not resurface. Had the ship been equipped with inflatable rescue boats (zodiacs) or wave runners, the response efforts to save Andrew could possibly have been expedited.
The next day, I read a report in the Brisbane Water Police Station that they could still hear Andrew from the bridge, calling for help at 2:50AM; yet, they still could not locate him.
The search continued until 7 AM. Search helicopters had arrived about 4 AM but it was too late. They searched most of the day, but there was no sign of Andrew.
The next day, when they stopped the search, we hired our own helicopter and kept searching for an entire week, but we never found him.
We have made several attempts to obtain copies of the video tapes from the night of the bodged rescue attempt, but the cruise line has refused to release them. As a result, we are forced to rely on the testimony of eyewitnesses.