Image: Janet Richardson, 73, falls into the sea while being transferred to a rescue boat
Colin Prescott  /  Patrick Hill
Janet Richardson, 73, falls into the sea while being transferred to a rescue boat after being taken ill on board the Ocean Countess ship.
msnbc.com
updated 4/23/2011 11:18:35 AM ET 2011-04-23T15:18:35

A 73-year-old grandmother who was dropped into freezing Arctic waters during botched rescue attempt has died, British media reported Saturday.

Janet Richardson died Saturday at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, England, The Daily Mail reported. Her 78-year-old husband, George Richardson, was by her side at the time of her death.

Richardson had been fighting for her life in the British hospital after rescuers dropped her into freezing Arctic waters as they attempted to transfer her from a cruise ship to a lifeboat.

Richardson reportedly began to feel dizzy and ill on the Ocean Countess cruise along the coast of Norway last month. After she was examined by the ship's doctor the captain decided to transfer her to shore for treatment.

Another passenger on the ship, Colin Prescott, said both the ship and the lifeboat "were steaming at ten knots" when paramedics tried to move her on a stretcher, The Sun newspaper reported.

"The vessels, which hadn't been latched together, suddenly moved apart by several feet as they were transferring her, which caused the rescue crews to drop the stretcher into the sea," Prescott said.

George Richardson looked on in horror.

"Six men were holding the stretcher, but it went down and then Janet slipped into the sea. She was conscious throughout," he told The Sun.

British media reported that the water was -3 degrees Celsius (26.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and that it took paramedics around 8 minutes to rescue her from the frigid waters.

Image: Janet Richardson, 73, is transferred to a rescue boat
Colin Prescott  /  Patrick Hill
Image: Janet Richardson, 73, is transferred to a rescue boat after being taken ill on board the Ocean Countess ship.

"It was very traumatic to see her fall in," her husband said. "I thought I was going to lose her."

"Janet had always wanted to go on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords so she could see the Northern Lights," her husband said. The couple share eight grandchildren between them through previous marriages.

The cruise ship left the British port of Hull on March 20 and the incident occurred on March 29, The Sun reported.

Investigation launched
Norwegian police have launched an investigation to determine what went wrong, police spokesman Per Thomassen said. Larsen said the Norwegian Sea Rescue had also started its own probe.

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Richardson spent a week in intensive care in Norway before she was transferred to the Cumberland Infirmary on Thursday.

The trip organizer, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, said Richardson had suffered from internal bleeding during the homeward leg of a two-week cruise to see the northern lights. She was traveling with her husband when she got sick, according to a report by Britain's Press Association.

Larsen said it wasn't unusual for ships to be used in rescue operations instead of helicopters and said people are safely transferred between ships in Norway every day.

"This was a sad, but unusual event," Larsen said.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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