James Thomas, 19, used his 6ft 3in frame to bridge the gap between decks three and four, allowing 16 passengers to climb over him and into lifeboats.

The dancer from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, is reported to have only abandoned ship when two passengers pulled him towards a lifeboat. The same cannot be said, however, for the ship’s captain.

“The last people I helped were a Frenchman and his disabled wife,” Thomas told the press.

“He grabbed me by the cuff and pulled me into one of the boats.

“My life was that ship for six months, and now it’s gone.”

Thomas also described the panic when it became clear that the ship was in serious trouble.

“Our first officer came on to deck four and shouted for everyone to get over to the other side of the ship.

“We rehearse safety procedures every week but this was a different situation.

“We couldn’t get the lifeboats off and the life rafts that the staff use were stuck to the side of the ship. It was frightening.”

He added that he had at first thought to make light of the situation, before the real danger became clear: “Me being me, I started doing an impression of Michael Jackson in the Smooth Criminal video where he’s almost horizontal.”

Image: Getty