PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A few travelers from the Pittsburgh area went through a terrifying ordeal on board a cruise ship that experienced engine failure in stormy seas just off the coast of Norway.
When the Viking Sky floundered off the Norway coast, Mary Ann Rieland was on board.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m reliving the Titanic,’” she said.
Rieland, who is from northern Washington County, says the storm was an assault on the senses.
“All you could hear was glass breaking all over the ship,” she said.
“And it was really, the waves were very, very strong,” Carolyn Savikas said.
Rieland and Savikas, who is from South Park, told Norway VG the wave were violent.
“The ship was listing back and forth significantly. They had a buffet set up. The buffet table crashed, all the dishes crashed, and it slid to the entire, what was my left side and took everything with it. All the dishes, all the people, all the tables, everything,” Savikas said.
The women and their spouses retreated to their cabins at the crew’s recommendation only to get there and hear the ship’s emergency notification go off.
“The guy said, ‘This is not a test, get down,’ and it was very orderly. I have to tell you, I was truly was impressed,” Savikas said.
On a ship, you are taught to “muster” to a point in case evacuations are needed. Their muster point was back in the very restaurant they had evacuated. When they got there with their life vests on, Rieland looked out at the sea.
“I just saw this huge wave coming toward us, and I just knew something bad was going to happen,” she said.
That wave crushed in the doors leading to the deck, sending a wall of water inundating the restaurant.
“All I saw was legs, arms, water, tables, chairs, everything. It was like, I hate to say, it was like the Titanic. It was exactly like the pictures you saw of the Titanic,” Savikas said.
Carole Gordon-Young, who is from Philadelphia but has relatives in the Pittsburgh area, was also on board.
“It was very frightening. We at one point thought we were capsizing. We were all praying together,” she said.
For 13 hours, Gordon-Young waited to be air-lifted off the Viking Sky to safety. When it came her turn, she says the winds were above 40 mph and the waves angry. A Norway Coast Guard helicopter hovered over the ship in the predawn Sunday morning darkness.
“They harnessed me to my companion, and we twisted around, as well as blew back and forth, for the entire time from the liftoff ’til we got into the helicopter,” Gordon-Young said.
The ship lost three of its four engines and was only a mile off the Norway shoreline. The rough seas make lifeboats unusable, and there was no way rescue vessels could safely get anywhere close to the bobbing, listing ship. So the evacuations continued well into Sunday with 479 passengers in all plucked from the decks to safety.
A few passengers were hurt and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. When the crew was able to get the engines back online, the evacuations were halted and the rest of the passengers went with the ship into the nearest port.
Gordon-Young got back onto the ship Monday to get her personal belongings and was impressed by what she found.
“They had cleaned up our cabin. Everything was put back in perfect order. Everything was immaculate, and they served us dinner tonight. We had steak and French fries and creamed spinach,” she said.
The passengers are all being flown home with a promise of compensation. The decisions by the ship’s captain are now under investigation.