Two East Texans Survive Cruise Ship Tragedy

More than a thousand passengers were aboard the Sea Diamond coming into port yesterday on a Greek island, including Pat Steigman and his mother Margaret.  Both from Tyler.

They felt a jolt as the Sea Diamond hit a reef just off the island of Santorini and began to sink.

"He told me his ship had had a little problem and we were going to change ships," says Jill Steigman of how her husband, Pat, didn't tell her the full story.

Jill Steigman didn't learn all the details about what was happening until late Thursday night.

"I went to the computer and I was reading the headlines and I saw where it saw that 1,600 had been evacuated from a cruise line, and I thought that was interesting, because he's on a cruise.  And then it said Greece. Then, I kind of panicked," she says.

When the Sea Diamond ran aground, Jill later learned her husband and mother-in-law were together in a tour group meeting.

"They felt a jolt, and they didn't know what to think, and then the boat started tilting," she says.

Ships came to the rescue, but the sheer number of passengers to evacuate meant a nerve-wracking three-hour delay.

"They were just told to wait, and they brought them water and lifejackets," Jill says.  Pat told Jill he just didn't want to worry her, and they made it by ferry to the island, though they're exhausted and their clothes and luggage are gone.

"[Pat] did have both cameras, but he had just taken the chip out of his digital camera into the suitcase, so he lost all his pictures and all his souvenirs."

KLTV spoke with Pat Steigman by phone briefly Friday and he and his mother will return tomorrow, undoubtedly exhausted, but very thankful.  His wife will be too.

Of the 1,150 passengers and 350 crew, two people are still unaccounted for: a French man and his daughter.  It's believed they couldn't get out before water filled their compartment.

Morgan Palmer