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LONDON (May 31) — Millvina Dean, who as a baby was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat in the frigid North Atlantic, died Sunday, having been the last survivor of 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.
She was 97 years old, and she died where she had lived — in Southampton, England, the city her family had tried to leave behind when it took the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage, bound for America.
She died in her sleep early Sunday, her friend Gunter Babler told the Associated Press. It was the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship that was billed as “practically unsinkable.”
Babler said Dean’s longtime companion, Bruno Nordmanis, called him in Switzerland to say staff at Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home in Southampton discovered Dean in her room Sunday morning. He said she had been hospitalized with pneumonia last week but she had recovered and returned to the home.
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Our new toolbar integrates latest news into your Web browser and installs in seconds. Download It Now A staff nurse at the nursing home said late Sunday that no one would comment until administrators came on duty Monday morning.
Dean just over 2 months old when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours.
Dean was one of 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among the 1,517 who died.
Babler, who is head of the Switzerland Titanic Society, said Dean was a “very good friend of very many years.”
“I met her through the Titanic society but she became a friend and I went to see very every month or so,” he said.
The pride of the White Star line, the Titanic had a mahogany-paneled smoking room, a swimming pool and a squash court. But it did not have enough lifeboats for all of its 2,200 passengers and crew.
Dean’s family were steerage passengers setting out from the English port of Southampton for a new life in the United States. Her father had sold his pub and hoped to open a tobacconists’ shop in Kansas City, Missouri, where his wife had relatives.
Initially scheduled to travel on another ship, the family was transferred to the Titanic because of a coal strike. Four days out of port and about 600 kilometers (380 miles) southeast of Newfoundland, the ship hit an iceberg. The impact buckled the Titanic’s hull and sent sea water pouring into six of its supposedly watertight compartments.