Whitnash couple tell of their experience on board ship where a passenger died during a storm

A Whitnash couple are happy to be safe on dry land after a luxury cruise they were on ended in tragedy for a fellow passenger and his family.

The Marco Polo cruise ship.
The Marco Polo cruise ship.

Former town mayor and mayoress David and Margaret Clough, of Home Farm Crescent, were on board the cruise ship MS Marco Polo on the English Channel when it was hit by a ‘freak’ wave which crashed through a window fatally injuring 85-year-old James Swinstead and harming other passengers.

The Cloughs’ cabin was on deck seven, just above the restaurant where the incident happened.

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Mrs Clough said: “We heard the bang, but we were confined to our cabin because of the weather and we knew we were going into the bad weather because we had left Portugal early. We didn’t know whether we were going to hit the storm or miss it but we did and these people were dining on Valentine’s night and the whole of the window came in.

The Marco Polo cruise ship.

“The incident appeared on television and it soon went round the boat and when we docked in Tilbury we heard that all the press were there.”

Medical helicopters were sent to the ship to airlift the injured passenger to hospital and a woman in her 70s who was also seriously injured.

Mr Clough said the incident came during four ‘slightly horrendous’ days at the end of their trip.

He added: “As anybody who has been in the navy will know, you don’t turn a boat away from a storm you turn into it and the ship rolls violently when you turn.

Margaret and David Clough were on the Marco Polo cruise ship which was hit by a freak wave in the English Channel, blowing windows and leaving a passenger dead. MHLC-19-02-14 Marco Polo Feb36

But the captain did it well and looked after us as best he could. They said there was a force 11 gale which is just a little less than a hurricane so you can tell how fast the waves were crashing around - the wind was between 90 to 100 mph all the time. The people who had been in the forces who listened and did what the captain said were alright.”

As part of its 42-day voyage, the ship had cruised down the Amazon and docked at Madrid and Lisbon before the wave hit as it headed back from the Azores to the port of Tilbury in Essex.

Mr Clough said: “It didn’t ruin it for us as a couple but it did for certain people because of the gentleman’s death.”

An interview with the Cloughs can be seen above.