A seven-year-old Polish boy and his mother have died after he fell 65ft from a ferry and she jumped in to try and save him, Swedish authorities have said, with a murder probe now launched.
An extensive search and rescue operation was launched involving ships and helicopters from Sweden, with NATO units including an American aircraft in the area also coming to their assistance.
The pair were later found and winched by helicopter and rushed to Karlskrona hospital in Sweden.
Swedish prosecutors said this afternoon that they had initiated a preliminary investigation where the criminal charge is murder, while adding that no suspect had been identified.
‘The investigation aims to try to clarify what happened,’ prosecutor Stina Brindmark said.
An extensive search and rescue operation was launched involving ships and helicopters from Sweden and NATO units in the area also came to their assistance
According to initial media reports, a child had fallen into the sea and the woman had jumped in after him
Brindmark added: ‘The two people who fell from a ferry travelling to Karlskrona yesterday have died.
‘They are a Polish woman born in 1985 and a Polish boy born in 2016,’ police said, adding that the next of kin had been notified.
Police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka confirmed earlier today: ‘Unfortunately, in the morning we received information from the Swedish side that we have to pass on this terrible news to the family, because both the boy and the woman are dead.’
The Swedish ferry, Stena Spirit, had 310 passengers onboard and was midway through its journey to Gdynia in Poland from Karlskrona in Sweden when the tragedy occurred, officials have said.
What brought about the incident remains unknown.
‘There were passengers who alerted the crew that two people were missing. Then possessions were found without the people. Then the crew was alerted and surveillance images were checked’, Stefan Elfström, head of information at Stena Line, told local media.
An extensive search and rescue operation was launched involving ships and helicopters from Sweden, with NATO units in the area also coming to their assistance
According to initial media reports, a child had fallen into the sea and the woman had jumped in after him.
However, Agnieszka Zembrzycka, a Stena Line spokesperson, told Polish media on Friday that the CCTV footage from the ship did not match this version of events.
She declined to provide further details pending the outcome of an inquiry into what had happened.
‘At the moment we have no information whether this was due to a malfunction of the ferry,’ Stena Line spokesperson Agnieszka Zembrzycka told TVN 24.
‘We are cooperating with the police and other authorities that are appointed to explain the causes and circumstances of this event.’
Swedish police issued an appeal to Polish passengers via Poland’s state-run news agency PAP asking for information that could explain how the accident occurred.
Swedish Maritime Administration spokesperson Jonas Franzen told reporters that the child fell from a height of about 20 meters (65 feet).
‘First we received a report that one person had fallen overboard, then it turned out to be two,’ said Lars Blom, chief of rescue operations at the Swedish Maritime Administration rescue centre.
The Swedish ferry, Stena Spirit, was in the Baltic midway through its journey to Gdynia in Poland from Karlskrona in Sweden (file image shows the ferry)
Sebastian Kluska, a Polish Maritime Search and Rescue Service director, said the ferry left Gdynia on Thursday at 9am and headed towards Karlskrona in southern Sweden.
At approximately 4.20pm information came through about two people who fell from the ferry and emergency services rushed to the scene.
The accident occurred in the Swedish area of responsibility of the SAR service, but his Polish team was called in to help, he said.
About five minutes after the broadcast of the message, which was also sent out by Polish Rescue Radio, the Swedish administration and the Swedish Rescue Coordination Center asked for help, he told news site Fakt.pl.
It was the rescue boat crew who found the Polish woman and her son in the water, he added, claiming they were then handed over to rescue helicopters.
He also suggested that one of the victims was resuscitated on board the ship, and the other immediately flew to the hospital.
Tragically, despite the best efforts of emergency responders, the boy and his mother died in the hospital.
The hospital declined to comment, referring inquiries to the police.