April 13, 2005


ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - The Queen Mary 2, the world's largest luxury liner, was diverted to Newfoundland on Tuesday after someone became ill while the ship was crossing the North Atlantic, en route to England.

Heavy fog and severe icing conditions prevented a Cormorant search-rescue helicopter in Gander, Nfld., from reaching the ocean liner.

"Nothing can fly right now," said Lt.-Cmdr. Denise LaViolette, a search-rescue spokeswoman in Halifax.

Mark Blanchard, a passenger on the ship, said the captain told passengers the ship had to turn around.

"The ship's doctor came on the loudspeaker and appealed to passengers for blood donors to help treat his patient," Blanchard said in a satellite interview from the ship.

The ship was about 175 kilometres from St. John's and was expected to arrive outside the city's harbour late Tuesday.

Blanchard said he'd heard from the captain that the ship would arrive at about 9:45 p.m. Newfoundland time.

The 340-metre-long Cunard ship - the largest ocean liner to ever sail - is far too big to squeeze through the entrance to the harbour, which is known as The Narrows.

The vessel is expected to stay several miles from harbour, and the patient will be transferred to a coast guard ship and brought to a city hospital.

It was also unclear whether the person in question is a passenger or a member of the crew.

LaViolette said the weather wasn't expected to improve before Wednesday morning, making the diversion necessary.

"The safest measure to take was to request that the ship head towards St. John's to disembark the individual who needs medical attention," she said.

LaViolette declined to reveal the nature of the illness, but said: "If I was the person that had this condition, I would be wanting to see medical personnel."

The Queen Mary 2 was headed to Southhampton, England, from New York when the emergency arose.

Launched on Jan. 12, 2004, the $800-million US ship can carry 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew.



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