A NSW man who died after jumping naked from a cruise ship into the sea in a bid to save his girlfriend should be awarded Australia’s highest bravery award, says the policeman who investigated his disappearance.
Paul Rossington, 30, plunged nearly 20 metres into the Tasman Sea after his girlfriend, Kristen Schroder, 26, apparently slipped from a fifth-level balcony on the Carnival Spirit on May 8, 2013, a coronial inquest in Sydney heard on Tuesday.
That act of conspicuous courage should not go unrecognised, Detective Sergeant Michael O’Keefe told the inquest, as he called for Mr Rossington to be awarded the Cross of Valour.
“He must have known that jumping out would most likely end with him losing his life,” Mr O’Keefe said.
A massive search began for the couple more than 16 hours later when the ship docked in Sydney and it became evident they were no longer on board.
Their bodies have never been recovered and the court heard there is little chance either survived for long.
The inquest heard the cruising holiday was “make-or-break” for their relationship of 10 months, which was described as volatile but not violent.
Mr O’Keefe said the couple had been arguing over dinner on the final night of the cruise, with Mr Rossington accusing his girlfriend of flirting with another man before leaving the table and heading back to their cabin.
Around 9pm, infrared CCTV footage shows a figure in dark clothing, presumably Ms Schroder, climbing over the balcony of their cabin before apparently slipping, clinging on for four seconds, then falling, the court heard.
She tumbled 6.7 metres, struck the railing of a lower deck, and then somersaulted a further 12.6 metres into the Tasman sea.
Moments later a second figure – presumably Mr Rossington – jumps over the railing into the water.
His much brighter signature on the infrared CCTV indicates he was warm and naked when he jumped, Mr O’Keefe said, adding he had most likely been in bed then ran onto the balcony when he saw his girlfriend fall.