Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Escaping a real-life sinking ship
Bill Christopher has been chaperoning high school kids on trips to Europe for the past 13 years, along with his wife, a high school teacher. But this time around, the more than 20 teenagers and half-dozen adults in the group were embarking on a journey that was anything but typical. After his experience, Christopher shared his story with I-Report. (Check out his firsthand account in this gallery.)

Just as they were about to drop anchor and go ashore on the Greek Isles for a day of sightseeing, they heard an eerie scraping and tearing sound that lasted for three or four seconds. As the ship began to tilt to the starboard side, Christopher realized the ship was taking on water. He said it was impossible to keep the group together because the ship was crowded with scared people.

“I went up to the eighth level to see what was happening, and when I decided to return to the fifth level, it was impossible,” he wrote. “There was a wave or stampede of people coming up both stairwells. Everyone had fear and panic on their faces.”

It was “just like the movies,” with women and children being rescued first, including his wife. His two small children were safe at home with their grandmother. Christopher said he remained on the boat for about two to three hours, passing the time by watching television or looking at the helicopters flying around, all the while making plans for a worst-case scenario: ending up in the water. He kept an eye on the angle of the water in the tilted swimming pool as a way of tracking whether the ship was sinking further. Finally, he spotted a ferry that positioned itself at a perpendicular angle to the cruise ship. The ship’s bow had a ramp on front used for loading vehicles, but this time, it was used for loading people.

“People had to exit the lower level of the ship (near the water) and climb over the ramp and slide down on a couple mattresses that they had rigged to comfort the ride down,” he wrote. “The other method (my route) was to walk on a wood plank that was a little shaky, and then climb down into the ferry. Finally, I was reunited with my wife and most of our group.”

The ship eventually sank where it was in the Aegean Sea, several hours after Christopher got off. A Miami firefighter, he typically is the one doing the rescuing. But in this situation, he says he pulled back and followed the directions of the crew, and advises others to do the same.

"That's usually the best thing to do -- listen to the people in charge,” he writes. “That should facilitate people getting off the ship in the most orderly way."

What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Comment below and let us know your thoughts on Christopher’s story.
I doubt if I would have the same courage or calmness.I think experience has a way of calming the nerves/tension.Panic is the worse culprit during emergencies like this.
As an ex Merchant Marine engineer I am surprised that the ships sank so close to shore. If the ship had no propulsion tugs may have been available to move the ship closer to the shore. If this was not the case the danger would be minimal for passengers if panic was controlled. This was far from being a Titanic situation. While not minimising the danger it was in effect more perceived than actual. Life preservers would have kept the passengers afloat while waitning to be rescued from the water
This is the ONE reason I never go on cruises!
I was on the Star Princess cruise ship Fire last year off of Jamacia. It was a terrifing experience...so I know what these people went through....the firefgter in the blog is right...listen to the crew. they are trained for emergancies. The crew and captian on our ship were fantastic and un-doubtably saved numerous lives.
To the Merchant Marine Engineer//
My husband was onboard the cruise ship. After everyone was evacuated, tugs DID move the ship around to a nearby cove and pushed it right against the island and it slipped in the water and sunk anyway in water right off shore in 350 feet of water...
He definetly made the right choice in listening to the proffessionals who were trying to rescue him. However, it was very smart of him to think for himself and have a plan B just in case. I'm glad he didn't panic and run around in circles but kept his cool and made sure something was done.
I would not panic and make sure my loved ones were safe. Then I would panic.
I would panic!!!! Love the movie Titanic and I'm actaully a history buff about the Titanic itself, but I can't swim, I fear the water (deep) , I think panic would have set in most assured!
I'll stay on dry land! No ships for me, EVER.
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