Harpenden couple traumatised after being airlifted from cruise ship

Denise and Michael Tozer with their 14-month-old granddaughter, Pollyanna, and the flowers sent to t

Denise and Michael Tozer with their 14-month-old granddaughter, Pollyanna, and the flowers sent to them from Viking Cruises after the incident. Picture: Michael Tozer - Credit: Archant

A Harpenden couple was left traumatised after being airlifted to safety from a life-threatening cruise ship accident in Norway.

On the afternoon of March 23, a Viking Cruises ship was travelling from Tromsø to Stavanger with about 1,000 passengers onboard, including Denise and Michael Tozer.

The 64-year-olds had just finished lunch when they noticed the ship was hugging the coastline and a storm was brewing, but they thought little of it.

However, when the weather became markedly worse and large waves starting battering the hull, Denise and Michael sought safety towards the heart of the vessel.

When a 30ft wave hit and sent the boat banking at a 45 degree angle, Denise was thrown to the floor and suffered numerous injuries.

She had facial grazing, a gash on her leg, and lots of bruising.

The Viking Sky’s engines had failed off the coast of Norway and it was drifting perilously close to the rocky coastline of the infamously dangerous stretch of sea.

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Michael said it was “scary”: “I am cross with myself that I hadn’t been able to help her [Denise] - there is a lot of guilt coming into that.

“To see your loved one sprawled out across the floor, with furniture crumpled on top of her, is one of the worse sights I have ever seen.”

With Denise injured and a priority, the Harpenden couple were two of 500 people to be emergency airlifted to land.

Michael described being picked up by the helicopter: “They needed [the timing] to be perfect because you can imagine if they hadn’t done it absolutely spot on with the timing, on the moving, pitching and reeling of the ship, we would have been thrown backwards so they did a really good job.”

Three of the ship’s four engines were later restarted for its journey to Molde port on Sunday, and Michael and Denise were flown back to Gatwick after a stay in a hotel.

Michael said he has been suffering from psychological trauma since the incident.

The couple, who have been married for more than 40 years, have three children and seven grandchildren together.

They own a business called Vortex Designs, and have been living in Harpenden for about 35 years.

Norwegian officials said they are investigating why the Viking Sky set sail despite storm warnings.