Frantic search for woman who fell overboard on P&O cruise ship

The Pacific Dawn cruise ship

Passengers said the woman's husband saw her fall and went into shock.

Operator P&O Cruises says the Pacific Dawn immediately turned around to search for the woman after she fell from the ship in the Coral Sea, nearly 200 miles of New Caledonia, but they couldn't spot any trace of her, the BBC reports.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the guest's family at this distressing time". The woman is reportedly travelling with her children, however, it is unclear if they were on the deck with her.

A statement from P&O Cruises Australia said the hard decision to suspend the search was made only after expert advice that survival was not considered possible after so long in rough seas.

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P&O said the incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner, as is normal procedure.

A crew member raised the alarm around 4pm on Thursday, and the "man overboard" incident response was activated straight away, with the ship turning around and retracing its course.

Authorities in Australia and New Caledonia said they had issued a call for other vessels to assist in the search, but the ship was in remote waters. A spokeswoman said doctors believed she would not have survived past 5am local time in the conditions.

The had ship departed from Brisbane on Saturday.

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The woman was 47 years old, according to the BBC, and the decision to call off the search was made on Friday morning by the Australian maritime authorities.

A Brisbane man holidaying on the ship with his family, who also requested not to be identified, told AAP conditions in the search area are rough.

"She leaned over and the ship rocked in heavy seas - her husband tried to catch her but she slipped", one passenger shared on social media.

The ship was on a week-long cruise from Brisbane to the South Pacific, stopping at Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila.

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