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Kansas couple endure explosion, deadly rogue wave on Antarctic trip

One second, Pam Trusdale was sitting in a heavy-duty inflatable boat happily taking video of penguins in Antarctica.

The next, the Topeka woman was thrown into the air by an explosion.

Two other passengers also went airborne after the blast beneath the boat’s floor.

One woman suffered a badly broken leg.

The other passenger spent perhaps two minutes in the water before he was pulled back onto the boat.

Trusdale, her husband, Tom, and the boat’s other occupants subsequently learned that the Viking Polaris, the ship on which they were taking a cruise, wasn’t capable of providing the medical attention the woman needed.

So the cruise ship headed north through gale-force winds and rough waters toward South America. En route, it was struck by a giant rogue wave, which killed one passenger and injured four others.

Trusdale shared that account of her experiences Friday in a telephone interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, from Ushuaia, Argentina, where she and her husband were waiting to return to the United States.

“We’ve had a little bit of excitement that we hadn’t anticipated,” she said.

‘Trip of a lifetime’

Pam Trusdale took this photo of penguins during a trip to Antarctica.

The trip to Antarctica was the eighth on Viking Cruise Lines for the Trusdales, who are retired and have been married for 10 years.

“We’ve seen a lot of the world,” Pam Trusdale said.

She is the widow of Col. Mike O’Toole, wing commander of the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard, who died in 2003 in a plane crash on takeoff from a private airport in northeast Shawnee County. Pam Trusdale and their adult daughter, Shannon O’Toole Mason, survived after being hospitalized for injuries suffered in that crash.

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