100911: ROBIN BOLTMAN HOLDS HIS MEDALS

many are asking whether Midlands magician Robin Boltman was on the doomed cruise liner Costa Concordia. Boltman has a knack of being aboard cruise ships that go to watery graves.

“People have been ringing to ask if I was in Italy at the weekend,” he said.

“With the news about the Costa Concordia, people now want hear all about the shipwrecks I was on,” said Boltman, who was giving a presentation on his on-board experiences in Mooi River on Monday night.

Last year, he was honoured by the Society of American Magicians for his actions on the ill-fated Oceanos, which sank off the Transkei coast in 1991, and on the Achille Lauro, which caught fire off the coast of Somalia three years later.

He was given the Heroism and Patriot Award – and was the first non-American to receive it.

Boltman, owner of the Argyle Arms Lodge in Mooi River, said that as a result of the lessons learnt from the Oceanos and Achille Lauro disasters, international safety regulations had been changed.

Now, it is supposed to be “women, children and their dads off first”, he said.

“You can’t have only women and children on lifeboats as the first ship they might come across that can help them could be an oil tanker. You need to have men to help them get on to the tanker.”

But according to survivors from the stricken Costa Concordia, the women and children policy went overboard as it was every man – and crew member – for himself.

Boltman recalled that there had been a similar situation on the Oceanos and he told how the captain had boarded the second rescue helicopter, leaving about 200 passengers behind.

But Boltman, the cruise director, had calmed passengers. He then went to the bridge and maintained radio contact with the rescuers, while the entertainment troupe looked after passengers and helped save lives.

Boltman was the last to be airlifted off.

Afterwards he went to a debriefing where he heard the captain, Yannis Avranias, say: “When I order ‘abandon ship’… abandon is for everybody. If some people like to stay, they can stay.”

When fire broke out on the Achille Lauro, the captain Guiseppi Orssi called Boltman to the bridge and asked for his advice, telling him he did not want to make the same mistakes as the Oceanos captain.

“I told him he first had to sound the alarms,” he said.

“It is important to stay calm and collected. Passengers should also go to their cabins and get their life jacket and any medication.”

Boltman said the lifeboat and evacuation drill was carried out on the ship very soon after embarkation (the Costa Concordia’s had to be done within 24 hours) and that everyone knew where their muster stations were and the shortest route to get to them.

Durban designer Kevin Ellis, one of the entertainers who helped rescue passengers from the Oceanos, said people still contacted him to thank him for saving their lives.

Boltman plans to go on the MSC Sinfonia’s comedy cruise in March.