Kristen Schroder and her boyfriend of 10 months, Paul Rossington, by most accounts, were a “volatile” couple whose brief but intense romance was marred by frequent fights and the 27-year-old Schroder’s personal struggles with anxiety and depression, which led her to seek psychological treatment.
But in May of 2013, the lovers from New South Wales, Australia — each recovering from a recent divorce — gave their relationship one last chance.
They took a vacation together, boarding the Carnival Spirit cruise ship for what they hoped would be a getaway that would bring them closer together and finally put their relationship on stable ground.
But according to the findings of a coroner’s inquest released on Tuesday, on the night of May 8, at 8:48 p.m., Kristen climbed out of their cabin and onto balcony, right at the ship’s railing, with nothing between her and the roiling waters of the Tasman sea 60 feet below in the dark.
Why would she pull such a crazy stunt? Coroner Hugh Dillon found no evidence or indication that 30-year-old Rossington was in any way threatening or abusive toward her. He also found nothing to make him believe that Kristen was attempting to take her own life.
But given the stormy nature of their relationship and the fact that Carnival Spirit’s security cameras caught the couple fighting earlier that evening in the ship’s casino (pictured above right), the investigator concluded that Kristen, who was described as always having a “flair for the dramatic,” was trying to “test” Paul, as well as “alarm him” with a “dramatic gesture.”
Sadly, Paul passed the test with heartbreaking results.
Seconds after she climbed onto the balcony, Kristen Schroder slipped. A horrifying security video reportedly showed her dangling from the edge for four agonizing seconds before she fell, first slamming into one of the ship’s lower decks about 20 feet below, then bouncing off the deck and into the water.
And then, without hesitation, Paul Rossington dove in to save her.
According to Dillon, Rossington must have known that he would probably die when he made the 60-foot dive in a desperate attempt to save his girlfriend — but he did it anyway. The coroner and the detective in charge of the investigation, Michael O’Keefe, now say that Paul should be considered for Australia’s Cross of Valor, the country’s highest award for bravery.
Neither Kristen’s body nor Paul’s were ever recovered. Dillon described the couple’s heartbreaking tragedy as “even more distressing than most because of the loneliness of their deaths in a dark ocean, and because they had gone on the cruise in the hope of restoring and reinforcing their relationship.”
The investigation found a diary written by Kristen not long before the fateful cruise. In one entry, she wrote that she disliked herself for repeatedly “lashing out” at Paul, “the person I care about most in the world and the biggest support I could have imagined. I don’t like who I am or how I’m treating him and I need to figure it out.”
The deaths of Kristin Schroder and Paul Rossington were not an unheard of occurrence on cruise ships. They were the third and fourth incidents of cruise ship passengers going overboard in 2013. In each of the previous two years, 23 people died after going overboard from a cruise ship.
[Images: Facebook, Carnival Cruise CCTV]