A fishing boat had been adrift for two weeks when passengers on luxury liner Star Princess spotted sailors waving for help and alerted the captain, but the cruise liner did not stop to help. UPDATE: Company issues statement, eyewitnesses comment.
It was reported by the Globe and Mail that a Panamanian fishing vessel had been adrift for two weeks when passengers on a Princess Cruises liner spotted sailors in distress waving for help. The boat had lost its power and drifted near the Galapagos Islands, a bird-watching route for the Star Princess. Passengers Jeff Gilligan and Judy Meredith of Oregon spotted the boat and alerted Star Princess officers, but the liner did not even slow down.
16-year-old Fernando Osario and 24-year-old Oropeces Betancourt died in the month-long ordeal, the former on the night following the day on which the cruise liner had passed by. Vasquez, the sole survivor, was eventually rescued by an Ecuadorian vessel on March 28. Below is a video interview of the sole survivor, two thirds of which is in Spanish.
Princess Cruises is owned by the Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, the world's biggest cruise company. One of Carnival's biggest ships, the Costa Concordia, sank off the shores of Italy on January 13. Another Carnival ship, the Costa Allegra, had a fire on board in February that left it powerless and adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Ms. Meredith said she contacted Princess Cruises for an explanation after the cruise ended but received a reply she didn't expect. The company told her that sailors on a fishing boat asked the captain to stay clear of its fishing nets and were waving at the boat to thank him. Gilligan and Meredith tried to contact reporters from the BBC, CNN and USA Today in vain. Meredith then reached out to Don Winner, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst living in Panama. Winner interviewed the survivor on video and posted it on YouTube.
Mr. Gilligan posted his pictures of the fishing vessel "Fifty Cent" online at Panama-Guide.com's web site.
Canadian maritime law, and United Nations conventions, oblige captains to render assistance to vessels in distress. The cruise ship is registered in Bermuda and technically subject to Bermuda law.
Princess Cruises issued the following statement late Thursday: "There appeared to be a breakdown in communication in relaying the passenger's concern. Neither Captain Edward Perrin nor the officer of the watch were notified...Captain Perrin is devastated that he is being accused of knowingly turning his back on people in distress."
Globe and Mail was the first North American mainstream medium to break the story April 19th after Don Winner posted his video below on YouTube on April 14. Here's the full story from the perspective of the two eyewitnesses that were on board the Star Princess.