Real Life

REAL LIFE: He proposed – then our boat sank!

''I’d just got engaged when disaster struck''
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Carolina Castro, 38, from Melbourne, Vic shares her story with Take 5.

Stepping off the boat onto the Indonesian island, Nusa Penida, I gazed around, mesmerised by my tropical surroundings.

White sand swirled around the beach and the glistening water was so clear you could see the tropical fish swimming beneath it.

“Welcome to paradise,” my boyfriend, Dino, 34, said, smiling.

We’d travelled from Melbourne, and it was our first holiday together since we’d arrived in Australia from our hometown in Argentina, four years earlier in 2018.

It had taken us a while to save up but now the wait seemed worth it.

We’d booked most of our two weeks in Bali, but had decided to come to Nusa Penida for three days to welcome in the New Year.

It didn’t disappoint.

Our hotel room was huge, with a private balcony facing the ocean.

Time there went quickly and before we knew it, it was our last day – New Year’s Eve.

Carolina and Dino celebrating New Year’s Eve.

(Image: supplied)

When we woke up the clouds were black and thick.

“I think it’s going to rain all day.” I said to Dino.

“Great,” he said, irritated.

He was in a weird mood but we carried on exploring the island.

After we’d welcomed in the new year at midnight, we headed back to our room and Dino ushered me out onto the balcony.

“I’m going to miss this view,” I sighed.

Then I turned to look at Dino and gasped.

He was down on one knee holding a ring.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Yes,” I squealed, blinking back tears.

Dino and Carolina after their engagement.

(Image: supplied)

Later, he explained he’d planned to propose on the beach at sunset, but the rain had ruined it.

“It was perfect the way it was,” I told him.

Next morning, I woke up with a huge smile on my face.

“It’s going to be a good day,” I said.

We packed up and checked out, and later headed to the dock to catch the 4.30pm boat back to Bali.

When we climbed on board, I noticed a crew member mopping up water.

They must have been cleaning, I thought.

Other crew members seemed to be in a rush.

One snatched our luggage from Dino’s hand and tossed it onto the deck.

“Careful,” Dino said.

This trip was supposed to be the couple’s holiday of their dreams.

(Image: supplied)

We found some empty seats up the front and barely had a chance to sit down before the boat was on the move.

“What’s the hurry?” I said to Dino.

“No idea,” he shrugged.

The boat quickly picked up speed and I gripped the chair as it started bouncing vigorously on the surface.

At some points it felt like we were flying.

“They’re going way too fast,” I fretted to Dino, as water splashed my face.

I looked back at the crew, who were laughing, but when I glanced at the other 32 passengers on board, their faces were wretched with fear.

We moved towards the middle, then there was a loud thump and within moments, water began to pour into the boat and we came to a stop.

“What’s happening?” I said to Dino, panicked.

A large crack in the ceiling ran over our heads and water was seeping in from the floorboards.

The boat began to sink.

(Image: supplied)

“We need to move,” I urged.

I looked for a crew member but couldn’t see one.

“I’m going to find out what the hell’s going on,” another passenger announced.

Terrified, I searched for life-jackets.

Nobody had given us a safety briefing, so we had no idea where they were.

Finally, a crew member came down and told us not to panic.

“This is completely normal,” he said.

Unconvinced, we found the life-jackets and put them straight on.

Then the boat started tilting to the left.

People were screaming and I could barely breathe for fear.

Dino and Carolina (top left) were terrified.

(Image: supplied)

We’re going to sink, I thought, terrified.

The same crew member who’d told us not to panic, now screamed at us to get to the back of the boat.

We watched in horror as the seats on the left-hand side plunged underwater.

Soon passengers started slipping down into it too.

“Help,” they screamed, as we tried to pull them back up.

It felt like a scene from Titanic!

Once everyone was on the top of the boat, we waved for help.

Fortunately, a nearby boat sailed over to us.

But the crew wouldn’t get too close, in case their vessel got pulled under too.

“We have to jump in and swim to them,” a crew member said.

The couple had to swim to a nearby boat as the ship sank.

(Image: supplied)

It meant leaving all our belongings behind but our lives depended on it.

Dino was beside me at first but went to help a passenger who had their foot stuck in a cracked floorboard.

“Go,” he said. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Jumping in, I kicked my legs frantically, terrified I’d be dragged to my death as the ocean swallowed the boat.

When I was finally pulled onto the other ship, I burst into tears of relief.

Then Dino came on board and I sprinted to him.

“You’re safe now,” he said, stroking my hair as he held me in his arms.

Once everyone was rescued, we were taken back to the coast.

There was an eerie, shocked silence in the air for the ten minutes it took to get there.

Feeling the sand in between my toes, I felt I could finally breathe again.

The couple no longer plan to return to Indonesia for their wedding.

(Image: supplied)

But our nightmare wasn’t over.

It took hours for police to turn up, but even after we’d given our statements, nothing was done.

The company blamed it on bad weather and said they’d hit some debris.

The crew from the other boat managed to grab Dino’s case from the water, which luckily had my engagement ring in it, but the rest of my stuff was lost at sea, including my clothes, a brand-new computer and my hearing aid, which cost thousands.

But we haven’t received any compensation to replace it.

Even worse, we’re still paying off the holiday.

The incident hasn’t just left us broke, it’s traumatised us too.

I suffer nightmares and have to see a psychologist.

We’d originally planned to return to Indonesia for our wedding but there’s no way we’ll do that now.

What started off as a special place for us, now only exists in our nightmares.

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