Cruise tragedy: ‘She never wanted to hurt them’

THE Queensland mother who threw herself to her death from a cruise ship must have been in a "dark and desperate" place to cause her family such pain, a devastated friend says.

Natasha Schofield, 47, plunged about 40m from an upper deck of the Pacific Dawn last Thursday after she had been standing on the deck with her husband. Their three children, aged 12-16, were also on-board the cruise ship for what had been described as a holiday of a lifetime.

Police say security cameras recorded the final few minutes of Mrs Schofield's life as she stood with her husband - and it appeared to depict a loving, happy couple.

But just after 4pm last Thursday Mrs Schofield took two steps back and "propelled herself overboard" as her husband tried desperately to grab her by the legs.

A close friend, Damon Smith, posted a tribute to Facebook where he insisted "Tash" would never have wanted to hurt her family.

"Tash would never intentionally hurt her husband or children, her family or friends - everything that has happened on that boat is the complete opposite to what she would ever want - so I say she must have arrived in a very dark and desperate place in her mind very very quickly."

"It has also been revealed Mrs Schofield's behaviour only began to change in the last 24 hours of her life.

"[Her husband] said she didn't seem herself for just over a day but she assured him she was fine - RU OK? what if some one says they are OK but they're not - how can we change that part?"

In the emotional post Mr Smith said he "can't do without" his friend of 20 years.

"She has been there for me in various ways starting from crashing my wedding party to caring for my children a thousand times. I trust her with my life. That generous girl I know only strives to help others and make life happier - she has made me a better person absolutely."

Natasha Schofield has been remembered as a “generous girl” who always wanted to help others.
Natasha Schofield has been remembered as a “generous girl” who always wanted to help others.

The mother-of-three's body was lost at sea after she jumped from an upper deck level of the P & O owned Pacific Dawn as it was about 300km off New Caledonia last Thursday afternoon.

Rumours swirled on the ship as to who the woman was and passengers came forward to say they had seen a woman vomiting and leaning over the deck railing - but police confirmed at the weekend Mrs Schofield took her own life.

The tragedy has reignited online debate about just how safe cruise ships are - and what, if anything, could be done to stop a similar death at sea.

Several people posted comments at the weekend about the need for higher railings, so someone wasn't able to "propel" themselves over, as police chillingly described Mrs Schofield's final moments.

Others though pointed out it was near impossible to stop someone doing a similar thing, and questioned what sort of view people would have with higher railings.

A similar conversation began after a woman deliberately jumped from Sydney Tower's Skywalk.

Crew react after Natasha Schofield jumped from the upper deck.
Crew react after Natasha Schofield jumped from the upper deck.

The 22-year-old from Sydney's south, unclipped her safety harness and jumped from the Skywalk attraction which is the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere.

It then emerged Skywalk guests on the Skywalk were able to free themselves from the harnesses they must wear to perform the walk - but must sign a form declaring they will not before the walk begins.

When Skywalk reopened the full restraint belt was replaced with a full-body fall restraint harness "to ensure peace of mind" for all visitors and staff, Fairfax reported.

P & O declined to comment while the coronial investigation was ongoing, other than to point to Queensland Police Inspector Rob Graham's comments about international maritime standards for ship design when he spoke to media yesterday.

"I know there has been some speculation that the railings are too low. any death, any preventable death is one too many ... But millions of people around the world undertake cruises, right around the world, on various cruise liners."

He said the number of people who intentionally jumped overboard was "minuscule".

"So do we go and change and put additional safety equipment on those ships? It's not my position to say, but bare in mind all the millions of people who do go on these cruises and don't do that."

The Pacific Dawn would be assessed for its compliance, but he expected it would fully adhere to international safety regulations that included its railing height and other safety equipment.

He praised P & O for its "world class" professionalism dealing with the tragedy.

Mrs Schofield’s death was captured on security cameras.
Mrs Schofield’s death was captured on security cameras.

 

Ms Schofield was travelling with her husband and three children - aged from 12 to 16.

Insp Rob Graham said the death "wasn't an accident".

"Let's be open and honest about mental health. It's a tragic end to what should've been a lifetime holiday experience for a loving family."

Police had taken statements from passengers and crew and would investigate on behalf of the Coroner.

Insp Graham said Mrs Scofield's husband was next to her when she threw herself over the railing. The horrifying moment was captured by the ship's security cameras.

"[Mrs Schofield] did make intentional actions and deliberately propelled herself overboard the ship," Insp Graham said.

The entire incident was captured on security cameras. Insp Graham told reporters he had viewed the footage.

"What I saw was a couple of loving people on the top deck of a cruise ship," he said.

"I saw them leaning on the rails and I saw the intentional actions of the missing person take two steps back and then propel herself over the railing.

"Her husband tried in vain to grab her when she went over ... grabbing onto her legs ... she was too far gone and subsequently she fell.

"You've got three kids who are never going to see their mum again."

Pacific Dawn docked in Brisbane yesterday morning.

The cruise operator, Carnival Australia, said it was co-operating fully with the police investigation.

A life ring was thrown into the water. Picture: Twitter/Jonathan Trevithick
A life ring was thrown into the water. Picture: Twitter/Jonathan Trevithick

"We will be able to give police CCTV footage providing an unobstructed view of what happened and portraying an obviously devoted and loving couple," Carnival said in a statement.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the family and hope that they will find comfort in their grief."

Counselling was made available for passengers.

One traveller said passengers had been updated with developments from the outset.

"The captain and crew have been put in an unimaginable position yet have handled themselves professionally and with the respect to the victim and her family," Teg An told AAP last Friday as the search was abandoned.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

Pacific Dawn level 14, where Mrs Schofield fell from.
Pacific Dawn level 14, where Mrs Schofield fell from.
Mrs Schofield was on the cruise with her husband and three children.
Mrs Schofield was on the cruise with her husband and three children.


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