Bellingham man airlifted from cruise ship into a helicopter off Norway
A Bellingham couple got a bigger vacation adventure than they planned when their cruise to see the northern lights off Norway became a descent into the maelstrom on its return.
Carola and Barrie Anderson of Bellingham were aboard the Viking Sky cruise ship with approximately 1,400 other people when the 749-foot ship developed engine trouble and it nearly ran aground during a “bomb cyclone” Saturday in the Norwegian Sea, according to news reports and video from the scene.
“Other than one little minute when it was a little scary for me, it was kind of exhilarating,” Carola Anderson told The Bellingham Herald Tuesday in a Facetime interview from London.
About 500 passengers — including the Andersons — were airlifted by helicopters off the vessel’s pitching deck in winds gusting to 60 mph with 30-foot waves, an effort that took more than eight hours.
Another 900 passengers remained aboard, as the ship’s engines were fixed and the Viking Sky limped to the port of Molde, Norway, where the Andersons were taken to an emergency shelter and later to a hotel.
News reports said several passengers were injured, some seriously.
“When I think of the horrors of Katrina, the Norwegians did a wonderful job,” Carola said. “We were very, very impressed. It just touched my heart.”
Carola said the hardest part was waiting in an interior stairwell for eight hours as passengers were placed one-by-one in what she said were “horse collar” harnesses and winched into the open door of helicopters hovering 20 to 30 above the deck, their pilots struggling to keep the craft stable.
“We didn’t realize how bad it was while it was happening,” Carola said. “The only time I was really frightened was when that wave hit and everybody got soaked. When I get home, I’m going to watch ‘Titanic’ because now I can empathize.”
Another passenger took video of Barrie as he was winched aboard the helicopter.
“I was never so thankful as when they yarded me inside,” Barrie told NBC News.
Meanwhile, at home in Bellingham, the Andersons’ daughter Christine Perkins said she received a vague text message that said her parents were OK.
“I actually wasn’t all that worried about it at first,” Perkins said in an interview.
Then she watched the news.
“My relatives were all texting me last night,” said Perkins, who is director of the Whatcom County Library System.
She said the storm and rescue wasn’t her family’s first vacation emergency: Perkins fell while hiking with her mother in Australia a few years ago, and she was injured badly enough that she had to be airlifted off a mountainside.
“We have a history of helicopter rides,” Perkins said.
Number of people on board the Viking Sky corrected March 27, 2019.