SYDNEY — One of two Australians who plunged from a cruise ship in mysterious circumstances two weeks ago was remembered on Thursday as a hero who died attempting to rescue his girlfriend.
Officials have been tight-lipped about why Paul Rossington, 30, and his 26-year-old girlfriend Kristen Schroder plummeted more than 20 meters (65 feet) from their cabin balcony of a Carnival Corp. ship off eastern Australian on May 8 on the final night of a 10-day family South Pacific cruise.
Neither body was found. Hundreds paid their respects to Rossington, a paramedic, at a memorial service in a Sydney church on Thursday.
“We don’t know everything that happened that night, but one thing we do know is that Paul has immediately and instinctively gone over the side of the ship to try to save Kristen’s life,” New South Wales state Ambulance Service senior chaplain Paul McFarlane told the congregation.
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“To those who knew him, this heroic action was not surprising in the least. That’s the sort of man he was,” McFarlane added.
Police have revealed that surveillance video showed the couple going over the railing about the same time with a brief pause between them. But police have refused to officially say whether they appeared to have fallen by accident or jumped. Police have said there is no suspicion of a crime, ruling out the possibility that anyone was pushed.
Police have questioned family, friends and passengers in a bid to create a fuller picture of what happened than the video provided. But by Thursday there was no public update from police about the circumstances.
The family of Schroder, a real estate agent who had lived with Rossington in the New South Wales country town of Barraba, described her death in a statement as a “tragic accident.”
But Ann Sherry, chief executive of Carnival Australia and Miami-based Carnival Corp.’s representative in the South Pacific region, described the prospect of an accidental fall overboard as “highly unlikely.”
The couple were not discovered missing until the following morning when the ship, Carnival Spirit, docked at Sydney’s Circular Quay.
An air and sea search covered 4,670 square kilometers (1,360 square nautical miles) of ocean before being called off without finding a trace.
Schroder was remembered at a separate memorial service earlier this week. Her family requested privacy.
Their deaths were the latest high-profile problem for Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise operator.
Last year, the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people. Also last year, the Costa Allegra caught fire and lost power in the Indian Ocean, leaving passengers without working toilets, running water or air conditioning for three days. Costa is a division of Carnival Corp.
In February, passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph spent five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine-room fire disabled the vessel. Those on board complained of squalid conditions, including overflowing toilets and food shortages.