Kent Couple In Cruise Disaster

A woman from Rochester who was rescued from the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia says she thought her "life was over'' as the luxury liner sank into the sea.

Forty-five year old Mandy Rodford and her husband John, 46, were celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary on the liner vessel when it ran aground off an Italian island on Friday.

The couple, who arrived back at Heathrow airport yesterday, had only been on board the Mediterranean cruise ship for seven hours before disaster struck.

Mrs Rodford, who had been hesitant about going on the holiday because she does not like water, said : "I just thought my life was gone. I just thought my life was over, getting in that water.

"I thought, if I don't die from the swimming part, I'm going to die from the shock of having to get in it.''

Mr Rodford said he first heard a "crunch" as they were eating dinner and then his drink started sliding along the table. They asked a crew member if there was a problem, but they were told: "No, it's the engine.''

He said: "Then the lights went out and came back on. And then it (the ship) started going the other way, and quite a lot the other way.

"All the plates were coming off the tables and smashing, and it was just like bedlam. Everyone was getting the life jackets, but they told us to stay. They said: 'It's all right, it's under control'.''

The couple explained how they first went to the side of the boat the furthest from the water to escape. But because the ship had listed at such an angle, the lifeboats could not be winched down.

Mr Rodford said: "We all got in them, and we got so far down, but we had to get back out of them.''

His wife added: "I couldn't believe it. I was sitting in the lifeboat, and when I realised the lifeboat was going nowhere, we got out, but where the lifeboat had dropped, we had to climb out, so we had to climb and lower ourselves down.

"The men were trying to help the women down. I'm looking over the side and I'm thinking 'I'm going to have to jump in that water', and I hate the water.''

They described sliding down the corridors across the width of the ship to reach the starboard side, which was closest to the water.

Mr Rodford said: "Through the middle of the boat, we could see the lifeboats, so literally as a slide we came through the boat to the other end.

"We went on one boat on top of a boat, and then down into another boat and within two minutes we quickly had to go because it (the ship) went down more then.''

Asked if they would consider taking another cruise in the future, Mr Rodford said: ``I'm not going on a cruise again.''

His wife added: ``Never, ever, ever.''

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