2 Topeka couples on cruise cut short by rogue wave that killed passenger

Two Topeka couples were among those on a cruise to Antarctica cut short first by an accident, then by a rogue wave that took a passenger’s life.
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 10:18 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two Topeka couples were among those on a cruise cut short first by an accident, then by a rogue wave that took a passenger’s life.

Pam and Tom Trusdale planned the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica.

“We were going to get to do a submarine ride, we were going to get to do kayaking,” Pam said. Tom added he was excited that the cruise was involved in several environment studies, adding an educational aspect to their journey.

But then, disaster struck. They off the coast of Antarctica, en route to the submarine excursion. One second, Pam was watching penguins from their Zodiac vessel, the next was chaos.

“We heard an explosion in the forward area right in front of Pam and it threw a woman directly across from her up in the air, and then the gentleman right next to her literally flew up in the air and went into the water,” Tom said.

Tom helped grab the man from the water while Pam assisted the woman.

“This woman sustained a very bad leg injury,” Tom said.

She needed medical attention beyond what the ship could provide, so the Captain canceled the rest of the Antarctic itinerary and turned back toward Argentina, charting the course for the next unplanned experience. It happened in area of rough waters in the Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet between Antarctica and the tip of Argentina.

State Board of Education member Ann Mah and her husband, Shawnee Co. Treasurer Larry Mah were in area of the ship that felt the brunt. of it. Tuesday night, they’d just fallen asleep when a rogue wave slammed into the ship.

“(It was) just like your whole house got shook really hard. I mean, it was just a thud,” Ann said. “It woke us both up and we heard the furniture crashing over and we were glad we were laying down.”

Ann captured this a photo showing a row of windows two levels below their cabin broken out. She said it makes you realize how powerful the wave was.

One person in those cabins was killed, and four other passengers were injured.

“You just have to feel for the family of the person that died,” Ann said. “You don’t expect to go on the cruise of a lifetime, the adventure of a lifetime to see a part of the world so few people see and then not come back.”

With the families in their thoughts, both couples are grateful to have experienced what they did.

“You know, we got there, we got to see it,” Pam said.

“It’s so just magnificent and it just kinda takes your breath way,” Tom said.

Both couples say Viking, the company which operates the ship, was very sensitive and helpful to everyone. Both also already have trips booked for next year

Authorities continue investigating what went wrong with the Zodiac vessel the Trusdales were riding.