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In the afternoon of June 27, 2023, while midway across a Poland-Sweden crossing (en route from Karlskrona to Gdynia) and approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Polish coast, the ship issued a mayday signal and notified both Swedish and Polish rescue services that a mother and her child had gone overboard.
A significant search and rescue operation was launched immediately involving the Stena Spirit, several ships and rescue helicopters from Sweden, and several NATO ships conducting an exercise in the area. The ferry made a complete halt before changing course and launching a lifeboat.
The JRCC (Swedish Maritime Administration’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre) dispatched helicopters and vessels to aid in the search after receiving the ship’s report (at 14:20 UTC/14:20 Poland time). After approximately one hour, both passengers were located; the woman by rescue helicopter and the child by lifeboat. They were winched by helicopters from the water and flown separately to a hospital in Karlskrona.
On July 1, Swedish authorities verified that both the mother and child had perished. CCTV footage reveals that the child fell into the water first, prompting his mother to follow in an attempt to save him. They jumped ship from a height of 20 metres / 66 feet.
Both people were Polish nationals. The woman, aged 36, was in the water for 59 minutes, while the child, aged 7, was in the water for 66 minutes. Both were discovered unresponsive.
(investigating a potential homicide) On June 29th, the head of the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board (DMAIB), Oessur Jarleivson Hilduberg, stated, “Our investigation showed quite clearly that it was not an accident.”
In addition to onboard CCTV cameras, data was gathered from witnesses. Swedish prosecutors announced on June 30 that the case is now being investigated as a potential murder.
The investigation was conducted by Danish authorities due to the fact that Denmark is the flag state of the vessel, placing it under Danish jurisdiction.