MEDICAL evacuation procedures have been changed after a former Windermere woman died weeks after she was dropped into the freezing Arctic Ocean in a botched rescue mission.

A report by the The Norwegian Sea Rescue (NSR) following the death of 73-year-old Janet Richardson, of Ousby, near Penrith, has said people will no longer be transferred from a moving boat, or in rough seas.

Mrs Richardson died on April 21, four weeks after being dropped into the icy sea while being evacuated from cruise ship Ocean Countess.

The well-known sailor, gardener and horse-lover was strapped to a stretcher and was being evacuated from the cruise ship to the rescue boat when she was dropped.

She spent four minutes in the freezing water before being lifted on to a rescue boat.

A report released this week by NSR states that a crew from rescue boat Ruth Opsahl, together with two amb-ulance workers, were called to help evacuate Mrs Richardson, who was ill and unconscious, from the cruise ship.

It states: “When the ambulance workers and staff from the cruise ship tried to transport the stretcher with the patient from the cruise ship to the rescue boat, the two vessels slid apart causing the patient to fall into the sea.

"The transfer occurred in seven knots and the vessels were not att-ached to each other.

“This procedure is regularly performed by the rescue boats, both on ambulance missions and when transporting pilots.”

The report states that medical evacuation procedures were immediately changed and implemented, and adds: “The transfer of a patient on a stretcher shall not be performed when the vessels are moving, unless the rescue boat can be moored up to the vessel.”

Widower George Richardson, who used to farm at High Borrans, Windermere, until 2008, told the Gazette the procedures needed addressing.

“When they said they were moving her off the boat, they were going to use a helicopter, but they decided to use the life boat,” he said.

“They should have had a rope between the lifeboat and the ship being held by several people and it would not have slipped away.”

The retired farmer said he was shocked to find out from the report that his wife had not been wearing a life jacket.

“I had seen her in the ship’s hospital about an hour before they moved her and the next time I saw her she was on the stretcher and covered up.

“The report said that she was unconscious, but she had no life-jacket on and she can be seen from the pictures swimming. She could not have done that while unconscious.”