Marine expert takes to stand in cruise death inquest

A marine expert has concluded bosses on a cruise ship where a grandmother was crushed to death were carrying out '˜standard proceedures'.

Mary Atherton of Penwortham who died after being crushed on a cruise holiday.
Mary Atherton of Penwortham who died after being crushed on a cruise holiday.

Christopher Metson spoke at Preston Coroner’s Court yesterday at the inquest into the death of 75-year-old Mary Atherton from Penwortham.

On April 1, 2015, she fell through a gap between a small tender boat and a pontoon on the Queen Elizabeth liner, suffering multiple skull fractures.

Mr Metson said the sea off the coast of Cambodia was calm, the mooring proceedure was a “standard industry practice” and a narrow step on the tender boat was not a factor in Mrs Atherton’s fall.

He said: “Looking at the risks and the weather conditions, I can’t see the safety officer (Mathew Nicholls) did a great deal wrong.”

But he did suggest Mr Nicholls could have created a ‘lee’ by running thrusters to change the direction of wind, and could have asked Mrs Atherton to pause longer while larger waves passed.

Since the tragedy, Carnival UK, which owns Cunard, has brought in new safety proceedures, including more training, deploying an additional crew member and making sure passengers can step unaided across a 45cm gap.

Mr Metson said: “They have gone to great lengths to make sure something of this nature doesn’t happen again.”

Also giving evidence yesterday was Pamela Griffiths, who was also on the tender boat. She was critical of the response of crew after Mrs Atherton fell, saying: “They panicked”.