Despite being fired at by Somali pirates, a retired couple and other passengers who were enjoying a luxury cruise fought off pirates with deck chairs as they attempted to storm the ship and kidnap them.
Where were the crew? Apparently nowhere to be found.
UK DAILY MAIL – (H/T Lee S) – John and Barbara Jeffery had been enjoying the trip of a lifetime when the violent pirates tried to take over the ship they were sailing on. As gun shot rang out, the couple defiantly armed themselves with deck chairs, tables and whatever came to hand as they helped to beat off the outlaws. Mr Jeffery, 65, was hit twice, with one bullet grazing his leg and a piece of shrapnel from another still lodged inside his body.
The couple had been enjoying a three-week trip which was due to take them from Durban in South Africa through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal before touring the Mediterranean before docking in Italy.
But terror struck just one week in, when the MSC Melody was off the coast of Somalia, a spot haunted by pirates, when the couple and their fellow cruise passengers spotted a small speed boat following them.
Mr Jeffery described how the bandits struck in the night: ‘It was about 11.30 in the evening. ‘We were on an outer deck at the back of the ship and we were having a bottle of wine. ‘There would have been about 15 to 20 of us on deck. We had decided to enjoy our drinks outside as the entertainment in the bar area wasn’t up to much.
‘One of the passengers said they could see a small boat following us in the wake of our ship. ‘I could hear the engine of the boat as well. When I looked over the side we saw their small boat had pulled up alongside us.’
The couple, from Seaton Burn, North Tyneside, who took the trip in April 2009, then realised their worst fears were about to come true as the pirates prepared to storm the ship. John said the pirates hauled themselves aboard by slinging a rope over the side: ‘I don’t know how but they had somehow managed to get a rope hooked on to one of the lower decks and there was a pirate climbing up the side.’
With no members of the crew or security guards nearby, the passengers realised they would have to take matters into their own hands. Barbara, also 65, said the stunned passengers banded together to stave off the attack:
‘We all then started to throw whatever we could get our hands on overboard. ‘We were throwing everything we could at him but he was still climbing. ‘We were on one of the upper decks but his rope was attached to one of the lower decks meaning he didn’t have that far to climb to get on board.
‘Luckily just as the pirate was nearing the lower deck level a chair thrown by a German passenger connected with him, sending him tumbling into the sea.’
Although the makeshift band of defenders had managed to repel the pirates initially, the furious Somalis made another attempt at boarding and opened fire on them.
John, a retired builder, said: ‘They started to fire at us with their machine guns. ‘They were still close to the ship at this point so they didn’t have a great angle to hit us. ‘I think they were trying to scare us off so they could try with another rope, but we stood our ground and continued throwing things at the boat.
‘They then pulled away from the boat and started firing at us. I was amazed at how calm everyone was.’ The couple then decided to head further inside the ship but came under fire with bullets passing through windows and the steel hull of the boat. John was hit twice, most seriously by shrapnel. ‘I felt my leg go numb and I looked down and saw I was bleeding,’ he said.
‘People were pulling blinds down on the windows and I thought “that won’t help, the bullets are passing through the ship”‘. John spent another six days on board being treated for his injuries but when his septic wounds failed to respond to antibiotics the couple was flown home via Jordan and France. ‘I guess we are lucky to be alive though, as those bullets were flying everywhere.’