LONDON (AFP) – Millvina Dean, the last remaining survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, died in a care home in England on Sunday, media reports said. She was 97.
Elizabeth Gladys Dean, known to friends as Millvina, was only nine weeks old when the liner hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on the night of April 14, 1912, and sank killing 1,500 people.
She survived after being bundled up in a sack and carried to safety. Her mother Georgette Eva and brother Bertram also made it, but her father, Bertram Frank, was among those who died.
Dean died in a private nursing home near Ashurst in the southern English county of Hampshire, according to the BBC and Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency. Staff there refused to comment late Sunday.
Dean’s family had boarded the Titanic at Southampton, heading for a new life in Kansas where her father hoped to open a tobacconist shop.
Born on February 12, 1912, Dean was the youngest passenger on board. At the time, RMS Titanic was the most luxurious, most technically advanced and largest passenger liner in the world.
She was dubbed “unsinkable”, but it took just two hours and 40 minutes for her to disappear into the icy waters of the Atlantic after striking an iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14.
Dean was taken back to Southampton with her family after the disaster and did not find out that she had been on board until she was eight years old and her mother was planning to remarry.
According to enthusiasts’ website Encyclopedia Titanica (ET), Dean worked for the government as a cartographer during World War II and then for an engineering company.
She told reporters that it was not until the wreckage of the liner was found in 1985 that she suddenly became a celebrity, taking part in documentaries and giving media interviews.
Dean was invited to complete her family’s ill-fated journey to the United States in 1997 aboard the QE2, and accepted, although she turned down an offer to attend the premier of the movie “Titanic” because it would be too upsetting.
She moved into a private nursing home in Hampshire after breaking her hip three years ago, and after struggling to pay the bills was forced to sell off some of her memorabilia.
At auction in October 2008 she raised 31,150 pounds (40,000 euros, 53,900 dollars), selling off rare prints of the liner signed by the artists as well as compensation letters sent to her mother by the Titanic Relief Fund.
Dean was also forced to sell a 100-year-old suitcase filled with clothes donated to her family by the people of New York when they arrived after being rescued.
In the wake of the auction, friends including members of the British Titanic Society and the Belfast Titanic Society — the liner was built in Belfast in Northern Ireland— set up a campaign to secure her future.
Among the donors to the Millvina Fund were Hollywood actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in the 1997 “Titanic” film. The pair and the film’s director, James Cameron, reportedly donated 30,000 US dollars in total.
The last remaining US survivor, Lillian Asplund, died in her home in May 2006 at the age of 99. She was just five years old when the Titanic went down.