Graeme and Karla Lake went on the Ruby Princess to celebrate Ms Lake’s 75th birthday. After returning home she was diagnosed with coronavirus and died in hospital.

April 15, 2020 17:16:18
A man whose wife died of coronavirus after they both travelled on the Ruby Princess has vowed to seek justice for her.
Key points:

  • Karla and Graeme Lake were both diagnosed with coronavirus after travelling on the Ruby Princess
  • Ms Lake died in hospital 10 days after leaving the cruise ship
  • Mr Lake says he wants justice for his wife

Graeme and Karla Lake wanted to celebrate Ms Lake’s 75th birthday on board the ship. After returning home to Murrumba Downs, north of Brisbane, she was diagnosed with coronavirus and died in hospital last month.
“I’m angry,” Mr Lake told 7.30.
“The cruise has ruined us. It broke me, it’s broken the kids, the grandkids.
“She didn’t deserve it. She went on the cruise for her birthday so it’s really devastating. Even now I’m still struggling.”
Across Australia there are 662 Ruby Princess passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 passengers who have died. Those figures do not include passengers who are now overseas or anyone who acquired it via secondary transmission.
‘We were never told there was a risk’
The Lakes were passionate travellers and had been on more than 20 cruises together, most of them with Princess Cruises.
Mr Lake said his wife had Parkinson’s disease and cruises were an easy and relaxing holiday.
He said he did not think there was a risk of them contracting coronavirus when they boarded the ship.
“We were never told there was a risk,” he said.
Mr Lake said he and Ms Lake both developed symptoms about a week into the voyage.
“We both have rheumatoid arthritis and we have this dry cough. Karla’s was getting worse,” he said.
“I believe she probably started to pick it up on the second or third day before the cruise ended.”
On March 16 the Federal Government announced it was banning all cruise ships from arriving in Australia.
The next day the Ruby Princess cancelled the cruise and returned to Sydney, docking on March 19.
The cruise company said it made NSW Health aware of people with flu-like symptoms on board, but NSW Health determined the ship was low risk and allowed passengers to disembark.
The 2,647 passengers on board were told to self-isolate for 14 days once they arrived home.
‘She was fighting’
The Lakes travelled back home to Murrumba Downs.
Two days later the cruise company wrote to Ruby Princess passengers, telling them several passengers had tested positive to COVID-19 and “were likely [to have been] infectious while on the ship”.
“We just thought it was a formality, we’d go and get tested and everything is going to be alright,” Mr Lake said.
Mr and Ms Lake both tested positive and ended up in Caboolture Hospital in the same room.
“She was coughing, but we talked and she said she was fighting,” he said.
However, Ms Lake’s condition worsened. Ten days after leaving the Ruby Princess she died in hospital.
Mr Lake said he wants answers from the cruise company.
“Not once have I had a phone call from Princess Cruises, not once,” he said.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get justice for Karla.”
Three separate inquiries into what went wrong with the Ruby Princess have been announced.
The cruise company maintains it acted in line with state and federal procedures and followed the advice of NSW Health.
“The onboard medical team fully disclosed to NSW Health that there were some people on board with flu-like symptoms,” Carnival Australia said in a statement.
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“At the time, cruise ships worldwide did not conduct COVID-19 tests on board. They were expected to provide swabs to public health authorities who did the testing at onshore facilities. This happened in relation to Ruby Princess.
“NSW Health advised the ship that the NSW Health expert panel had assessed the Ruby Princess and determined it did not require on board health assessment in Sydney.”
In a statement NSW Health said it would be inappropriate to comment as “NSW Police are currently undertaking a criminal investigation into the events surrounding the Ruby Princess”.
Watch this story tonight on 7.30.
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First posted
April 15, 2020 17:13:10
Contact Jason Om