COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee couple were welcomed with open arms and cheers of joy from family after returning from a harrowing experience at sea.
According to WZTV, Richard and Terri Grogan of Cookeville were two of the hundreds of people airlifted to safety over the weekend after their Viking Sky cruise ship lost power and was left adrift in stormy seas.
The couple told the media outlet they are grateful to be alive.
“Water coming into the boat, pushing tables, chairs and these elderly people shoving against the wall, that was the moment that was terrifying, because you thought we thought we may capsize, this boat may sink,” said Richard Grogan.
“We’re alive, we’re alive, the more we got into it the closer we realized we were really close to not surviving,” added Terri Grogan. “Had that ship grounded, they couldn’t have got us all off.”
The Viking Sky, which regained engine power on Sunday morning, sailed to Molde harbor accompanied by two supply ships and one tug assist vessel. There were 436 guests and 458 crew still remaining on board.
Twenty people who sustained injuries in the incident were being treated at medical facilities in Norway, or had already been discharged, Viking Ocean Cruises said.
“Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew,” Viking Ocean Cruises said in a statement, thanking Norwegian emergency services and local residents for their support.
Rescuers faced rough seas and waves as high as 6-8 meters (roughly 19-26 feet) as they worked to airlift passengers by helicopter earlier on Sunday.
The Norwegian Red Cross, which was treating passengers from the ship at an evacuation center in Hustadvika, said that they were seeing injuries including bruising, broken bones and cuts.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg thanked rescue workers and volunteers who had helped respond to what she called a “dramatic day” for passengers aboard the vessel.
A desperate wait for rescue
After being evacuated to shore, American passenger Jan Terbruegen described the scenes on board the Viking Sky to CNN affiliate Dagbladet.
“Furniture would slide across the room, slide back and with it came people and glass. It was a very dangerous situation frankly,” Terbruegen said.
He said they had been told to abandon ship quickly — leaving little time to be scared.
“We were trying to stay lower in the ship towards the center just because it was a recipe for seasickness. And then they called muster stations and within half an hour we figured out that we’re getting off here. We could see that we were getting blown in towards some rocks. That was the most frightening thing I think. But luckily that wasn’t our destiny.”
Fellow passenger Beth Clark described to Dagbladet being airlifted from the vessel.
“The guy came down from the helicopter — one of the Coast Guards — snapped my belt and said ‘hold it’ and shot me up about 100 feet in the air and onto the helicopter,” she said.
“I was more terrified of hitting the blades. I didn’t look down, so that was my big fear. Everyone had their different fears, that was mine. But they were awesome, I mean as soon as they hoisted you up, he grabbed me and pulled me in like a sack of potatoes.”
Passenger Alexus Sheppard from northern California said Saturday she had been waiting almost six hours to be evacuated. Most people were fairly calm, she said, and they were being served food and water.
“It’s still rocking and rolling here,” Sheppard said.
Another passenger, Ryan Flynn, described the desperate wait for rescue.
“It’s about 3:15 a.m. local Norway time and many of us are still stranded on the Vikings Sky,” he tweeted. “It’s miserable as the seas are still very high with strong winds. The ship continues to pitch and roll. Captain is hoping the winds and seas calm enough to bring ship into port.
Authorities initially sent five helicopters and a number of vessels to evacuate the passengers. They were forced to divert some resources when a nearby freight vessel lost engine power, putting that ship’s crew in danger, rescue center officials said.
Norwegian police said that evacuees were being processed onshore at the Brynhallen indoor sports stadium.
Passengers were then being taken to hotels in Molde and Kristiansund, where evacuee centers had been established, they said.
The Norwegian Red Cross said it was assisting.