Exclusive: New Jersey couple rescued after nightmare cruise off Norway

SWEDESBORO, New Jersey -- More than a 1,000 people, including a New Jersey couple, were rescued from a cruise ship that got stranded off Norway's western coast in bad weather over the weekend.

The Viking Sky was carrying 1,373 passengers and crew members when it had engine trouble in an unpredictable area off the Norwegian coast known for rough, frigid waters. The crew issued a mayday call Saturday afternoon.

"The water breached the dining room area where we were located, knocking people to their feet, blowing furniture all around," said Dr. Charles Ivory, a retired South Jersey teacher.

Lodged under a massive dining table, he couldn't reach his wife. They were briefly trapped underwater.

"Just as the water breached the dining room, the ship lifted in the opposite direction," he said. "And the water drained just as quickly as it entered."

Ivory and his wife were saved by the Norwegian Coast Guard. Both are OK, but Ivory is in a wheelchair with a minor leg injury.
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VIDEOS: Viking Sky cruise ship runs into trouble off coast of Norway (1 of 4)

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky's evacuation was likely to be a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters one by one.

The rescue helicopters battled severe winds Saturday when they responded to the ship that suffered engine failure. The seawater was so strong it bent steel doors on the ship.

On Sunday night in Swedesboro, where Ivory is a respected retired school superintendent, his neighbors knew how excited he was ahead of his adventure.

"He sent an email out about 10 days ago and said he was going to see the Northern Lights," friend Jeff Cullinan said. "And I think he was going to go back to London after the cruise was over."

Now, they are just relieved he is safe.

"He's a great guy," Cullinana said. "I hope he's doing well, and I hope to hear some tales from him when he returns."

Ivory said he had X-rays on his leg and will be in a wheelchair until it heals.

"It's just frightening to think something like that could happen on a cruise," neighbor Karen Carola said. "But you think you're going for an enjoyable location, then you go through something tragic like that."

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