AT least it was not an iceberg. The cruise liner commemorating the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic was forced to turn around yesterday after one of its passengers became ill.
The MS Balmoral, which is retracing the maiden journey the Titanic made 100 years ago, left Cobh in Co Cork around 11.15pm on Monday night to sail to the wreck site of the Titanic for a memorial ceremony. But it had to declare a medical emergency when a BBC cameraman, Tim Rex, (56) became unwell and had to be airlifted to hospital.
Doctors aboard the ship, which was carrying 1,309 passengers from 22 different countries, including relatives of Titanic survivors, made contact with the Irish Coast Guard yesterday afternoon after Mr Rex, fell ill with a non-life threatening heart condition.
Tim Rex, 56, who was covering the cruise for the BBC, was believed to have received medical treatment on board while a call was made to the Irish Coast Guard just before 3.30pm.
He was said to be walking after the alarm was raised and spoke to family before being taken off as a precaution.
A rescue helicopter from Shannon was sent to the ship, MS Balmoral, which set sail from Southampton at 3pm on Sunday, April 8, stopping off at Cobh.
The original Titanic set off from Southampton on April 10, 1912 and called at Cobh on April 11. It was the last port it called at before the tragedy.
A BBC spokesman said: "Unfortunately a BBC staff member was taken seriously ill while covering the cruise to the site of the Titanic. Following advice from the ship’s doctors he has been taken ashore to receive urgent medical treatment."
The ship was 135 miles off the coast of Valentia, Co Kerry when the emergency was declared.
The vessel immediately turned around and steamed to within 113 miles of the Irish coast, where it met a Coast Guard helicopter from Shannon. The ill passenger was then winched from the deck of the ship and airlifted to hospital in Tralee.
Following the airlift, the Balmoral resumed its journey.
A spokesman for Titanic Memorial Cruises said that despite the delay, the ship's schedule was unaffected and the vessel was expected to arrive at the Titanic wreck site at the planned time on Saturday.
Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic after she set out on her ill-fated journey from Southampton to New York City on April 10, 1912. Meanwhile, one of the passengers on board the Balmoral, a relative of a young woman who boarded the Titanic at Cobh 100 years ago yesterday, described the events to mark the centenary as a "huge tribute to all the people who lost their lives". Nora Hegarty (18), from Killavallig, Whitechurch, Co Cork, boarded the ship at Cobh with her cousin Jeremiah Burke (19).
The pair were among the 1,517 people who perished after the ship hit an iceberg three days after leaving Cobh on the night of April 14, 1912. "It's awful to think that a member of your own family suffered such a tragic death," said Helen Murphy, a grandniece of Ms Hegarty, from Rochestown in Cork.