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2 cruise passengers fall overboard off Australia

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm •  Published: May 9, 2013

SYDNEY (AP) — No trace of an Australian couple believed to have fallen off a cruise ship has been found despite an intense, day-long search, officials said Friday.

Paul Rossington, a 30-year-old paramedic, and his 26-year-old girlfriend Kristen Schroder, both from the town of Barraba in New South Wales state, were discovered missing Thursday morning after the Carnival Spirit docked at Sydney's Circular Quay at the end of a 10-day journey, said New South Wales Police Superintendent Mark Hutchings.

Surveillance camera footage showed the couple fell more than 20 meters (65 feet) from the ship's mid deck Wednesday night, Hutchings said, when the ship was about 120 kilometers (65 nautical miles) off the coast of Forster, a city 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Sydney.

They were discovered missing more than 12 hours after police believe they fell overboard.

Rescue officials searched through the night with heat-seeking infrared equipment, but had not found the couple as of Friday morning, police said.

"We're going to be going hard today — we've got a lot of assets we're throwing at this," Hutchings told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday.

Andrea Hayward-Maher, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the search, said Friday that five airplanes and a helicopter were searching a 700-square-kilometer (200-square-nautical mile) area of sea 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of Forster. She said search conditions were good.

Investigators were having the surveillance video enhanced in a bid to determine whether Rossington and Schroder had jumped or had fallen by accident.

The ship has around 600 surveillance cameras that are constantly monitored, although no one reported seeing the fall at the time.

Hutchings said the pair fell a few moments apart. It was not clear from the video who fell first.

No life preservers were missing from the ship, Hutchings said. A missing life preserver might have indicated that one of the missing passengers had attempted a rescue.

Carnival Spirit is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator. The company has been plagued by a series of high-profile problems in recent years.

Carnival Corp.'s representative in the South Pacific region, Ann Sherry, chief executive of Carnival Australia, defended the company's record, saying safety was paramount.

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