A passenger who survived ten hours in the sea is a “stupid woman” who must have jumped off the ship, the mother of the cruise line’s president has told the Telegraph.
Kay Longstaff, 46, an air hostess, was accused of causing massive disruption to fellow passengers while costing Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation.
Allegations surfaced on Monday suggesting Miss Longstaff had been arguing with her boyfriend in the hours before she plunged into the Adriatic Sea from the seventh deck of the liner about 75 ft above the water.
Fellow passengers expressed anger towards Miss Longstaff and Norwegian Cruise Line for the chaos and disruption her actions had caused.
Many also suggested there was no way she could have accidentally fallen from the ship, insisting that the security barriers were simply too too high to topple over.
The 83-year-old mother of Andy Stuart, the cruise company’s president and chief executive, said her son had been dismayed by continuing reports that Miss Longstaff’s “fell” off the back of the Norwegian Star.
Mr Stuart telephoned his mother at her home in England from his office in Miami, Florida, to complain about Miss Longstaff’s version of events, calling it ‘fake news’.
Miss Longstaff, who moved from Cheltenham, Gloucs, to Spain in 2016, had told a Croatian television news channel after being rescued: “I fell off the back of the Norwegian Star and I was in the water for ten hours... I was sitting at the back of the deck.”
Mr Stuart's mother contacted the Daily Telegraph to protest that her son’s company was being wrongly blamed for the incident.
His mother said: “She didn’t fall off. She jumped. This has cost Norwegian Cruise Line $600,000. This stupid woman.
“I spoke to Andrew at lunchtime. He phones me almost every day. What he said was ‘this is fake news’. He said that she couldn’t have fallen. You would have to take steps to climb over the railings. He said she jumped in the water.”
His mother went on: “He [Andrew] doesn’t get upset. But he is annoyed that it has been implied that NCL was at fault. He said NCL went to a lot of trouble. They delayed the progress of the ship and sent for the coastguard. If you think of the cost of the ship being delayed, passengers missing their connections, passengers waiting to embark. That has all amounted to more than $600,000. When you get criticism, it is highly unfair.”
Mr Stuart, 55, took up his role in 2015 and had been with NCL for 27 years. He earns a reported £1m a year in salary.
According to reports, Miss Longstaff had been caught up in a row with her partner aboard the ship. He was asleep in their cabin when Miss Longstaff fell overboard at 11.45pm on Saturday night. It is understood that CCTV footage captured the incident and has established that no third party was involved.
Daniel Punch, who works on the Norwegian Star in promotions, posted on Facebook according to reports: “She didn’t fall, she jumped. It was on my ship. I spoke [to her] throughout the whole week. She was arguing with her fella the whole time.”
Miss Longstaff was found by Croatian coastguard at 9.45am on Sunday and taken to hospital for treatment in the Croatian resort of Pula. She said her yoga fitness and singing helped her to survive.
As she was released from hospital yesterday into the care of her partner, Italian sources suggested she had argued with her partner before he went back to his cabin and left her on the deck.
"The footage has been viewed and you can clearly see she was there on her own when she fell,” a source told SunOnline.
“She was not pushed. The theory we are working on is that she most likely jumped.”
Irena Hrstic, director of Pula’s City Hospital, said Ms Longstaff had refused to release a statement because she “can’t understand why there is so much interest for her”.
David Radas, spokesman for Croatian Ministry of Maritime Affairs, said its investigation was continuing. On Sunday night, Mr Radas said that CCTV images had “left a suspicion whether it was a jump or a falling off”.
Miss Longstaff has posted photographs of herself on the Costa del Sol in Spain with Craig Rayment, an electrician, who she was dating as recently as June 15. It is not clear if Mr Rayment was on the cruise with her and he declined to comment yesterday. “I’m not interested in talking,” he said.
Miss Longstaff’s father Ron Longstaff, 76, a retired chief superintendent with West Midlands Police, said he had no idea how his daughter had ended up in the sea. “She was certainly lucky. I am trying to work out what happened,” said Mr Longstaff.
Bethany Joyce, 21, from Long Island, who was on board with her parents, said her mother planned to claim compensation as they had been forced to spend an extra two nights in Venice before the next available flight home.
She told the Telegraph: “The cruise line was very unhelpful with helping us rebook travel plans. The only thing they gave us was 15 minutes of free WiFi to try and rebook travel arrangements.
“Disembarkation was also a mess. We had to sit around for hours just waiting for vague instructions.”
Passengers said they arrived in Venice at around 2.30pm on Sunday but did not disembark until 5.30pm.
Scott Bailey, a businessman from Derby, wrote on Twitter: “Just upsets me that she is there smiling away and loving the publicity saying she ‘fell’.
“The only way you could get off the ship is by climbing over the protective barriers and then jumping. Someone we spoke to said they had seen her crying earlier on.”
Another passenger, who called himself Eddiepal, also complained that he had missed his flights home to Boston meaning his holiday had a “rotten ending”.
Responding to suggestions that Miss Longstaff had somehow slipped into the water, he said “Next to impossible...take it from someone on board....”
He accused the cruise line of mistreating passengers and leaving them stranded in Venice for several hours.
NCL did not respond to requests for comment on passengers' complaints. Mr Stuart declined to comment on the contents of the call with his mother or the incident while an investigation remained ongoing.
A former passenger wrote online: “I was on the Star recently and spent quite a long time on that Deck 7 Aft area.. and if this lady departed the ship there it was definitely not an accidental fall. There are no chairs and the side rails are much more than waist high.”
Miss Longstaff is thought to have worked for British Airways for some years before working as a flight attendant with a private jet company.
She quit the UK to live in Spain in June 2016 posting a photograph on social media, captioned: “My new life.”