ships did

not heed


AN ELDERLY man was in intensive care last night after being catapulted

from a ferry on to a container ship during the North Sea collision in

which three people died, two of them Britons.

Retired RAF gliding instructor Mr Douglas King, 65, was flung from the

ferry lounge on to the deck of the Nordic Stream.

Mr King was travelling with his wife Patricia, 61, and 31-year-old son


Peter spent four hours frantically searching the Harwich-bound ferry

Hamburg for his father before he heard a passenger had been found on

board the freighter.

Last night he described the drama as a major inquiry began to discover

why the accident happened in good visibility despite warnings by radar

controllers that the ships were on a collision course.

The Nordic Stream from Panama stuck the rear of the Harwich-bound

ferry Hamburg in heavy seas, nine miles off Heligoland, near Hamburg,

late on Wednesday night.

It tore a 20-yard gash in the ferry's hull but it remained afloat and

limped to Bremerhaven under its own power.

The Britons who died were Mick Harlow, 38, a British Rail senior

engineer from Shelton Lock, Derby, who was returning from a job on the

German railway system, and luxury car dealer Stephen Khan Jaffa, 28, of

Loughton, Essex.

The other victim was believed to be German. Fifteen people were also

injured, six of them seriously.

There were 60 Britons among the 278 passengers on the regular

Hamburg-Harwich crossing.

As an inquiry into the accident got under way, senior German officials

said a radar controller sent out three radio warnings to the ships,

starting about 10 minutes before the collision.

Mr Heiko Lauterbach, marine police spokesman at Bremen, said both

bridges were manned but neither ship responded.

He said video tapes of the radar positions and tapes of the radio

warnings would be presented to the official inquiry.

''There were gale force nine winds and about seven-feet high waves,

but visibility was good at about six miles, Mr Lauterbach said.

Ferry owners Scandinavian Seaways said the lounge was almost empty and

the remaining damage was to a car deck.

But passengers from the collision arriving at Heathrow yesterday spoke

of chaos and panic as the ship was struck.

''We were in the lounge having a drink. The next thing we knew we were

flying through the air and tables and chairs and glass were flying

about,'' said Mr Bill Peart, 37, from Walsall, Staffs.

''There was a lot of panic. People were picking themselves up off the

floor and dashing to the nearest exit and trampling over everbody,'' he


Mr King was in his cabin when the ships collided and immediately raced

on to the deck.

''They let me into the lounge and I saw how the container had ploughed

right into the side of the ferry, leaving an enormous V-shaped hole

where a section had been stoved in.

Mr King found his mother injured on an upper deck and she was later

airlifted to hospital.

It was not until the early hours that Mr King was told his father had

been found on board the Nordic Stream.

The couple, who are from Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, were last

night in intensive care at Cuxhaven City Hospital.

Mr King said both parents have fractured ribs and his mother suffered

fractures to her pelvis, a broken leg, and torn ligaments.