The family of a Morgan Hill woman is breathing a sigh of relief
after a cruise ship she was on foundered on a volcanic reef in the
Aegean Sea.
Morgan Hill – The family of a Morgan Hill woman is breathing a sigh of relief after a cruise ship she was on foundered on a volcanic reef in the Aegean Sea.

Longtime Morgan Hill businesswoman Ida Williams escaped with only the clothes on her back after the Greek cruise liner she was aboard struck the reef and sank off the island of Santorini on Thursday. Two French passengers are missing after what some witnesses reportedly described as a chaotic three-hour evacuation.

Additionally, 49 IBM retirees and friends traveling with Morgan Hill residents George and Isobel Nale escaped the ship without injuries. It was unclear if Williams was traveling with the Nales or in a separate group.

Authorities said 1,547 passengers and crew were rescued from the Sea Diamond, a 469-foot-long cruise ship based in Greece.

No injuries were reported during the evacuation, in which passengers climbed down rope ladders into rescue boats.

Williams’ daughter, Judy Lloyd of Gilroy, said her 77-year-old mom phoned Thursday night to say she was OK and at a hotel.

“We were all really worried,” Lloyd said, adding the family gathered together to wait for her mom’s safe return over the weekend. “But we are hoping mom will have some good stories to tell after things settle down.”

Williams, who lost her passport, medication and luggage in the shipwreck, returned home Saturday.

News of Williams’ escape from the doomed cruise ship spread through Morgan Hill Friday.

A former Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce “Woman of the Year,” Williams opened Ida’s Tea Room about 20 years ago on Monterey Road, which later became Ida’s Restaurant. Today she runs the Shadowbrook Gardens Senior Town Homes off Warren Avenue, home to about 30 residents.

Williams recently moved from Morgan Hill to Danville.

An avid traveler, Williams left on a nine-day trip March 29. She was traveling with a group of sight-seers that first flew to Paris and then to Athens on March 30 where they boarded a week-long cruise of the Greek Islands.

According to the Associated Press, the Sea Diamond struck rocks Thursday in the sea-filled crater formed by a massive volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago off the island of Santorini. Tourists gathered on clifftops to watch the rescue effort at the reef. The 21-year-old vessel sank a quarter-mile off the island’s coast, in waters of uneven depth.

The Athens News Agency reported Monday prosecutors have launched legal proceedings against the captain for negligence and failing to apply international regulations on avoiding collisions.

State-run NET television said investigators believed most of the damage to the ship’s hull was done before the captain issued the distress signal, when he was trying to maneuver the ship away from the rocks.

According to the Nales, a rocky projection visible in the clear water ripped a hole in the hull on the third deck of the boat.

“Practically everyone was on deck taking pictures,” the Nales wrote. “We were not allowed back into our cabins so we eventually left the ship with nothing but the clothes on our back.”

After the ship sunk, the Nales said they boarded another boat that took them to Athens the next morning.

“We had 17 beds for 49 people, so you can imagine it was a rocky night,” they wrote.

The missing passengers were identified as Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter, Maud, from Doue-la-Fontaine. Navy divers have searched the sunken ship for the bodies.

Most of the ship’s passengers were American, but groups from Canada, Spain, France and the Dominican Republic were also on board.

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