A Salt Lake couple were among the survivors of the New Year's Eve boating accident in Brazil that claimed the lives of at least 51 holiday revelers.
Doug and Susan Swain, both 36, were in Rio de Janeiro on a business trip that they had hoped would also be a vacation, according to Bonnie Townsend, whose husband, Gale, is Susan's uncle.Townsend said the couple called their relatives in Salt Lake City about 8 a.m. Sunday to say that they had survived the disaster, which was blamed on the overcrowding of the boat.
"I had goose bumps," Townsend said, recalling the conversation. "They were so close to dying and for both of them to be OK. . . I thought of what I would have done.
"I would have panicked, but Doug just said, `We're going for a swim,' " she said. Townsend credited Doug with saving Susan's life as well as several other struggling passengers.
"He's a real strong swimmer. If it hadn't been for him, Susan wouldn't have made it," Townsend said. "When the boat tipped, it pinned her underneath some tables. He had to get on the railing and kick the tables off her. She thought she was going to die."
Like the others on the boat, they were on one of two decks planning to watch a New Year's Eve fireworks display off Copacabana Beach when the boat capsized. Authorities investigating the incident have said the cruise ship was overcrowded.
As were many of the survivors, the couple were picked up by fishing boats. However, they were taken aboard different boats, Townsend said, and for a while were not certain the other was alive.
They are scheduled to return to Utah on Jan. 9. Townsend said the couple have been married about 1 1/2 years and have no children.