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Stark County couple recalls being stranded on Viking Sky cruise ship, aiding fellow passengers

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LAKE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A Stark County couple is glad to be home safe after a harrowing experience on board a cruise ship stranded off the coast of Norway.

Matt and Jamie Burgasser were on the Viking Sky in late March for a 12-day cruise along the coast of Norway with a group of family and friends.

They said they enjoyed hiking, dog sledding and seeing the northern lights, but near the end of the trip, the ship encountered rough seas.

Massive waves knocked out power to the ship’s engines and caused it to list dramatically from side to side, sending furniture flying and passengers scrambling.

“I was literally on the ground holding onto the bed post so I didn't fly around the room,” Matt Burgasser said. “I like to consider myself a realist and with that I think is maybe a little pessimism, and I immediately thought that we're going to end up in the water and hopefully somebody can pull us out.”

As waves pounded the side of the ship, water pushed into portions of the interior and water-tight doors closed, Jamie Burgasser told FOX 8.

“It was apparent that it was going to be bad,” she said.

As rescuers began evacuating hundreds of passengers by helicopter, the Burgassers, both firefighter-paramedics, tended to passengers injured by falls or hit by falling debris.

Matt works for the Massillon Fire Department, and Jamie works for the New Philadelphia Fire Department.

“People needed treated, and we treated them. It was just like running a call here [in Massillon] and running a call in New Philly. It's just what we do,” Matt said.

The couple remained on board the ship for more than 24 hours before it slowly made its way to shore.

"It was kind of like a movie, honestly. The people of Molde, the town we ported in, there were hundreds of them lining the shore waving Norwegian flags, American flags, they were just incredible,” Matt said.

The couple reunited with family members who had been evacuated from the boat.

“I was beyond thrilled when we got off that boat,” Jamie said.

They said despite the harrowing experience, they were impressed by the crew’s response and plan to cruise again.

They said Viking Cruises refunded their entire trip and provided a voucher for a future cruise.

“If the same captain was waiting there to take us on that cruise, I would step right on the ship,” Matt said.

Continuing coverage, here.

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