Australians may never know who is to blame for the Ruby Princess fiasco at the end of a criminal investigation that may take at least 18 months to reach public court.
The New South Wales state government has ordered a criminal investigation into why 2,700 people were allowed to leave the corona virus-ridden cruise ship on March 19.
NSW grandmother Janet Lieben’s family also calls for justice after becoming one of 12 passengers on board who died of the virus.
She is among the 612 of the ship to contract COVID-19.
But revelations from a police investigation can be kept secret unless a person is prosecuted.
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Jerry Lieben calls for justice for his wife, Janet, (pictured together) after she became one of the 12 passengers of the ill-fated Ruby Princess to contract the corona virus
The crew-only Ruby Princess docks in Port Kembla, south of Sydney, to refuel and test personnel for COVID-19. The result of a criminal investigation into the dock in Sydney Harbor on March 19 will be kept secret unless a person is prosecuted
Even if someone is charged, only a limited amount of evidence will be made public in public court, The Australian reported.
New jury trials from March 16 have been suspended – adding to a backlog in court cases – meaning the Ruby Princess case may not be heard until late 2021.
The investigation, announced Sunday by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, may receive special funding from the state government due to the size of the investigations required.
Commissioner Fuller said at the weekend’s press conference that the investigation would attempt to determine whether violations of the Biosecurity Act and NSW laws had been made.
The interview with many of the 4,000 passengers is likely to be a major part of the investigation, the ship’s captain, crew members, and government agency personnel.
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay last week called for “an independent investigation with Royal Commission powers” into the ship’s berth in Sydney Harbor.
Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco
18th of March: The Ruby Princess calls an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of her passengers who present with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney.
March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbor. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
March 25: Australian Border Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for getting coronavirus patients on board.
29 March: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after coronavirus has been diagnosed.
April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are ill and in isolation.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims that the personnel on board may have misled NSW Health about the extent of passenger illness.
April 3rd: Home Secretary Peter Dutton claims that Ruby Princess operators were not transparent about crew health: “It was ‘obvious that some companies lied about the health of passengers and crew on board’.
April 4: Leaked emails indicate that NSW Health was aware of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before thousands of passengers were able to disembark.
April 5th: A criminal investigation is underway into how passengers could disembark without health checks
It comes after Jerry Lieben and his wife, Janet, both developed symptoms of the fatal respiratory infection at the Ruby Princess just one day after they were allowed to leave the ship.
Said Mr. Lieben A current affair on Monday night someone had to be held responsible for the debacle.
“Why did they put us on the ship?” he asked. “Why did they let us in? There must have been red flags, “he said.
He claims the ship was locked and their boarding time was delayed on March 8 – and not enough had been done to ensure they were healthy when they disembarked after the trip to New Zealand.
Jerry (photo, left) and Janet Lieben (right) had enjoyed a special 11-day cruise with old army friends in New Zealand on the doomed Ruby Princess
The now-widowed great-grandfather also remembered his last conversation with his wife, telling her that he loved her as she fought for life in a hospital bed.
“I was in the room next to her, I saw her before she died. But she was too rough with her breathing, so I had to go, “he said, tears streaming down his face.
“She got really upset, I combed her hair and told her I loved her and left the room and that was the last thing I saw her.”
There is ‘clear evidence’ that COVID-19 came from the Ruby Princess (pictured off the coast of Sydney on Sunday) and at least 12 passengers died in Australia
Ruby Princess is pictured docked at Circular Quay as passengers disembarked in Sydney on March 19
He said that while initially feeling nothing but pain and grief over the loss of the love of his life, the grief has now turned into anger.
“After what happened, I just think I need justice for my beautiful wife because all this shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
The couple returned from the trip of a lifetime to Sydney Harbor on March 19 and heard whispers of respiratory infections on board.
So they were shocked at the ease of disembarkation.
“When it was our turn to leave, we said ‘well, we’re going to be checked’, but nothing happened … We picked up our luggage, but nothing was checked.”
Mr. Lieben said they had been given a form asking them to isolate themselves at home for 12 days, but there were no checkpoints to ensure they were healthy before heading home to central New South Wales.
The couple started developing COVID-19 symptoms the day after returning from the cruise
To date, at least 5,795 people have been infected with coronavirus in Australia, including 41 people who have died
Mr. Lieben said he wants justice for his wife and doesn’t think they should have boarded
Within 24 hours of returning home, the couple knew something was amiss.
They called Orange Hospital and were asked to visit the facility for a COVID-19 test. Both results produced a positive result.
Despite their age, the couple remained quarantined at home before Mr. Lieben made a nasty fall. Both were rushed to hospital and Ms. Lieben’s condition worsened.
Janet Lieben (photo) with her beloved dog Benny. The loving great-grandmother died of complications from COVID-19
Mr. Lieben chose a funeral for his wife because no one – not even himself – could be present.
He is still in quarantine and is showing symptoms of coronavirus and has been visited by his son for 15 minutes daily to take care of him.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 5844
New South Wales: 2686
Western Australia: 460
South Australia: 409
Australian Capital Territory: 96
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 5844
The military veteran made the difficult decision to cremate his wife’s body and will celebrate her life with a memorial “when all this is over,” he said.
On Sunday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller confirmed a criminal investigation into the handling of the fiasco.
The Commissioner said it was “too early to say” whether a crime had been committed, but said that the corona virus had been “unquestionably” taken off the ship.
The investigation – led by the NSW homicide police force – aims to find out how passengers were allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in Sydney, resulting in several deaths and COVID-19 outbreaks across the country.
“The only way to find out if our national biosafety laws and our state laws have been violated is through a criminal investigation,” Fuller said.
He told reporters that transparency about the health of patients on board the cruise ship was an important question for the study.
How a midnight call that led to a coronavirus-stricken Ruby Princess cruise that could dock in Sydney Harbor after dark
The doomed Ruby Princess cruise ship is said to be stopped by entering Sydney Harbor to a last minute backlash by port authorities, phone calls leaked.
A total of 2,700 passengers – ten of whom died from the coronavirus – were able to disembark without medical checks on March 19 at 2:30 am, covered by darkness.
It has since been confirmed that more than 620 passengers on the ship have the virus.
But explosive phone calls between officials of Ruby Princess, NSW port authorities, and NSW ambulance personnel, called to assist sick passengers, reveal that the debacle could have been easily avoided.
In fact, NSW’s Port Authority initially told the ship’s captain not to dock as planned due to concerns that passengers had COVID-19 before a midnight phone call changed everything, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
That night’s logs from NSW port authorities – overseeing all ships’ access to Sydney Harbor – indicate they refused entry to Ruby Princess on March 18 at 11:30 PM.
That decision was made after emails between the ship’s doctor and NSW Health raising concerns about 110 sick passengers on board.
Among the sick were 17 with ‘temperatures above 38C’ and six with ‘muscle pain and diarrhea, severe vomiting or headache’ – all common symptoms of coronavirus.
In a conversation between a Ruby Princess officer and an NSW ambulance officer just before 9:00 PM that evening, it is clear that there are concerns that some passengers may be suffering from the virus.
The cruise officer asked for two ambulances when mooring.
It came two days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a 30-day ban on all cruise ships arriving in Australia.
But the harbor master reversed the decision an hour later.
Although the ship was expected to dock at 6 a.m. the next morning, the ship arrived in port at 2:30 a.m.
This led to confusion with two ambulance officers called to care for the sick Ruby Princess passengers.
In another explosive phone call, the two agents discussed the competing advice they had received from Ruby Princess officials on whether passengers were suspected of having the virus and whether the tests had turned out negative.
When the Ruby Princess left Sydney harbor for a trip to New Zealand, it was viewed as a medium risk of coronavirus passengers.
By the time it was halfway through the trip, that ranking had somehow been reduced to low risk – a decision defended by NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.
The NSW police have since started an investigation into the handling of the arrival of Ruby Princess in Sydney.