Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the “fall” of a newly-engaged couple from the Carnival Spirit cruise liner into the Tasman Sea last month. The focus of the investigation is how their bodies landed in the water, rather than on the deck below their 65-foot-high balcony. As The Australian reported, the ship’s “grainy” CCTV footage reveals 27-year-old Kristen Schroder plunging from the railing outside the cabin she had been sharing with 30-year-old paramedic Paul Rossington, who appears to have fallen seconds later. This occurred at approximately 8.30pm on May 8th, the last of the couple’s ten night cruise, seventy-five miles off Forster in NSW. A thorough sea and air search was conducted the following morning after it became apparent that the couple was missing. The search yielded no discovery of their bodies, however a memorial service for the couple was held on May 23rd as it was highly unlikely they were alive.
Survival expert Dr Luckin told the Sydney Morning Herald that even if the force with which they had landed in the sea had not killed them, three days was the maximum time anyone could be expected to survive the “constant fatiguing” of being surrounded by rough seas. NSW police Marine Commander Mark Hutchings told the Daily Mail that the fall was not being treated as suspicious, and there is “no evidence of foul play”, however investigators have not ruled out suicide as a possible explanation.
CCTV cameras in the ship’s casino have shown the couple arguing the night of their disappearance, while family members also on the cruise confirmed to the Daily Mail that they had “skipped” an arranged family dinner that night. According to ABC News, it is believed that Ms Schroder ‘lost her grip’ on the balcony railing and accidentally fell backwards, while Mr Rossington, in a state of panic, jumped after her.
One of the 2,680 passengers that had also been aboard the cruise liner told the ABC that it was “a shame” that Mr Rossington had not attended a presentation held by the cruise’s director the day before the accident, as the talk had pointed out the futility of jumping overboard to save someone.
Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry told the Daily Mail that a safety video is streamed to all guests’ cabins on the first day of every cruise, and the railing on the cabins’ balconies are higher than the internationally required standards. Ms Sherry said that the ship’s camera footage is usually monitored by security, but as May 8th was the last night of the cruise, staff had been focused on footage from cameras in the public areas where “virtually everybody” but the couple had resided. She stated that in her six years as CEO, this was the third incident of this nature.
Ms Schroder's brother-in-law Sascha Percuoco, who was also on the cruise, posted on Facebook this week: "I want to make one thing absolutely clear, neither of them had been drinking and I do not for one minute believe Kristen would take her own life."