What was to be “the trip of a lifetime” for an ageing English couple, in their tour of the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights, has quickly turned into a teeth-chattering oceanic nightmare.
For in arguably the most calamitous rescue transfer in Norwegian history, medics dropped a stretcher carrying 73-year-old British tourist Janet Richardson into the sub-zero waters of the Arctic Ocean.
After plummeting into the -3C sea, Mrs Richardson lay floundering in a frozen stupor for an entire eight minutes before being rescued a second time.
Having fallen ill with internal bleeding on board the Ocean Countess, Mrs Richardson was to be transferred to the mainland on a rescue boat as quickly as possible, as the Countess was not due to reach its port of call until the following day.
However, according to passenger Colin Prescott, the rescue boat didn’t latch itself to the Countess, and suddenly the two boats moved several feet apart during the transfer. The rescue crew then watched in horror as a weary Mrs Richardson tumbled towards the icy sea, stretcher and all.
Mr Prescott said the two vessels were travelling at ten knots at the time, and within seconds Mrs Richardson was roughly half a mile from the ship.
Mrs Richardson’s husband, 78 year old George, was beside himself as he watched the love of his life plummet towards Davy Jones’s locker. He said “I just saw the end of the stretcher go in”, adding “I thought I was going to lose her”.
After nearly ten minutes of flopping around in a dark polar sea, a chilled and sodden Mrs Richardson was taken immediately to the nearest dock before being administered mouth-to mouth resuscitation.
From here she was transferred to a Norwegian hospital, where her husband sat by her side, weary with distress, for a full 24 hours.
Shirley Bottelfsen, who was working at the Norwegian hospital where Mrs Richardson was being treated, said “luckily Janet had a lifebelt on which saved her life”. She added, “everyone in Bodo feels very sorry for them”.
Mrs Richardson is now back in the UK, allegedly on the road to recovery, while a spokesman for the Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the cruise operators, said they are cooperating with a full investigation into the incident.
While the editors at The Fox Gazette readily encourage grandmothers to pursue their adventures throughout the wonders of the world, we think it best they stay clear of any Norwegian rescue teams, at least for now.