Dream trip turns into nightmare for BHS teacher, students

It’s hard to imagine a better spring break than a Mediterranean cruise through the Greek isles. Pulling in to the fabled island of Santorini on your fourth fabulous day should make a storybook ending. Indeed, Bremerton High School English teacher, Judy Clark, and six BHS students have a story to tell, unfortunately, it’s Titanic in nature.

Their ship, the Sea Diamond, struck the rocks as it was entering the harbor Thursday, April 6, rupturing the hull. Brittney Wasserburger, a junior, was in her cabin on the second deck at the time of the collision. She and her friends felt the jolt and went out to investigate.

“By the time we found out something was wrong, and got back to tell other people in our group we needed to go higher in the ship, water was coming in and doors were swinging open,” Wasserburger said. “There was a mix between people who were totally panicked and people who were completely calm. I’d say I was somewhere in the middle.”

Wasserburger and Clark were among those lowered on the first life boat, approximately 45 minutes after the accident, but swirling currents interrupted the evacuation for two hours in the middle. Eventually, all of the over 1,500 people on board were safely transported to a quay on Santorini, but there they sat until late in the evening.

“About nine o’clock they took us on a tram up to a restaurant,” Clark said. Although the cruise line immediately sprang into action getting a new ship to the site, it wasn’t until one the next morning before the group was bussed back down to the harbor.

“As we were coming down the winding road we saw our first glimpse of our ship again,” Clark said. “It was almost a full moon, and we could see the ship was leaned over almost completely on its side. That’s when we all said, ‘Oh, I guess none of us going to get our stuff back.’”

This was Clark’s fifth trip with students through ES Tours, and was already scheduled to be her last. “The worst thing we’ve had happen before was one day in Venice we had a torrential downpour,” Clark said. “This was my swan song, I guess.”

It wasn’t all disaster for the group, the cruise line gave everyone 200 Euros to help cover losses, and ES Tours paid the hotel bill and the additional charges involved with changing to a later flight back to the states.

“I’d take a trip to Europe again,” Wasserburger said, “but probably not a cruise.”

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