A cruise passenger has died and another man was critically injured after the gangway taking them to their ship gave way at an Italian port.
Dozens of other passengers including several Britons watched horrified as the metal walkway crashed more than 30ft into the sea taking the 65 year old woman and the other passenger with it.
The Spanish tourist killed has been named as Maria Mercedes Bonastre, from Barcelona, while the injured man was revealed to be Fausto Del Charro Arraza, 65.
Crew members and dock workers jumped into the water to try and rescue the two passengers but the woman was declared dead at the scene after being pulled aboard by a coastguard launch while her husband suffered severe head injuries.
The incident happened at the Italian Riviera port of Genoa as the couple boarded the MSC Splendida for a seven night £1,200 Mediterranean cruise taking in Marseilles, Barcelona, Tunis, Malta, Messina and Civitavecchia.
Investigating magistrate Cristina Camaiori said that she was looking into a possible charge of culpable homicide against persons unknown following the tragedy.
Last night MSC Cruises, who own the boat, pointed blame at the Genoa port authorities, with director Pier Francesco Vago saying: ‘It seems that the incident happened after a walkway belonging to the maritime station gave way.’
Edoardo Monzani, director of the Port of Genoa, said:”This was a terrible tragedy but the exact dynamics still have to be established – it could even have been caused by the wind which was very strong at the time.”
Prosecution sources said they were looking into the possibility that the ship had moved because of high winds and seas but that nevertheless the gangway should have been more securely positioned.
Maria Del Carmen Cabonel, interviewed on Italian TV, said:”We were just about to step on the ship when all of a sudden the gangway wasn’t there any more and my husband disappeared.’
Splendida was launched last July and is 1,100ft long and carries 3,274 passengers and 1.332 crew.
It has 18 decks as well as theatres, cinemas, a casino and a health spa and she was named last July in Barcelona by veteran Italian actress Sophia Loren.