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Cruise fall couple 'could still be alive'

THE cruise ship railing over which an Australian couple fell into the ocean was higher than industry regulations required and designed to prevent accidental falls, a spokeswoman for the cruise company said today, as an intense search continued.

Paramedic Paul Rossington (30) and his girlfriend Kristen Schroder (26), both from the town of Barraba in New South Wales, were discovered missing yesterday morning after the Carnival Spirit docked at Sydney's Circular Quay.

Stephen Leahy, head of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters, said that if the couple fell accidentally, they could have survived.

He noted that the ocean was calm and fairly warm, and described Rossington as very fit.

"He has a very good understanding of survival techniques and his level of fitness will help him," Leahy said. "He'll also be able to help his partner. The chances of two young people surviving are very, very good."

Carnival Spirit is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise operator.

Carnival Corp's representative in the South Pacific region, Ann Sherry, chief executive of Carnival Australia, said the railing over which the couple fell was 5cm higher than industry safety regulations mandate.



"It's designed really to prevent accidental tripping" overboard, she told reporters.

"We want to make sure that it's not possible for people to fall overboard or to trip and fall overboard ... so I think it would be highly unlikely, but again, in this case, the police are conducting a full investigation," she said.