Just on the heels of our news story about the Oasis of the Seas rescuing some people aboard a stranded vessel at sea, there has now been a report about the Princess cruise ship “Star Princess” ignoring a Panamanian fishing vessel even after passengers on board pointed out the men waving their shirts frantically to the ship as it passed by.
Princess released a statement on Tuesday about the incident stating, “We are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter. We were very saddened to learn that two lives were lost aboard the boat.”
The 3 stranded men were struggling to survive for more than 2 weeks when they spotted the Stat Princess passing by.
It was a couple of bird watchers, Judy Meredith and Jeff Gilligan, who spotted the vessel with their high powered binoculars with fitted cameras.
Meredith said they immediately told the front desk about the boat and for them to contact the bridge. The desk made the call, left, came back and then nothing more was done.
“Nothing happened,” she told “GMA.” “The ship didn’t slow down. It didn’t seem to change course. And so I went back in and asked what the captain was going to do. And he said he didn’t know.”
But Meredith was not satisfied with this answer and would not give up. She went back to her room, wrote down the coordinates of the ship and emailed the U.S. Coast Guard hoping that they would help the stranded men in the boat.
“The boat appeared to be a disabled fishing boat with one person aboard and nets strung up from the masts,” Meredith wrote. “The person was actively waving a shirt or fabric object up and down with both hands. Since we were so many miles off shore and had not seen ANYwatercraft all day, we summoned a representative from the ship and asked him to phone the bridge.
“The rep then came back after calling the bridge of the Star Princess and looked through our scopes himself and could see the man waving something. By this time, he appeared farther away and was now waving a red flag,” she continued in the email. “We took this to be a sign of distress. The boat could be disabled and the man adrift. The Star Princess did not turn around or appear to make any active attempt to deal with the information, so we were bothered and decided to send information somewhere ourselves although we realize this is NOT U.S. waters.”
The U.S. Coast Guard was not able to find the vessel, however, as the ship drifted further away from the given coordinates, and it was not until 2 weeks later that the fishing vessel, called “the Fifty Cent” was found.
By this time two 16 year olds had died and there was only one 18 year old survival left, Adrian Vasquez. Vasquez stated that after the two others had died he had to throw the bodies over board. It is reported that the 2 died of dehydration.
It was the Ecuadorean coast guard that ended up finding the boat near the Galapagos islands, but 650 miles from shore, on March 24th.
Vasquez stated that the three were out on a fishing trip when the outboard motor wouldn’t start and the three were left drifting in the sea.
“It’s really frustrating that those young men were at sea two more weeks and two of them died. Two of them died because the ship didn’t turn around,” Meredith said.
The captain of the Carnival owned Star Princess claims that he did see the stranded vessel but he thought they were waving as to thank him for steering clear of their fishing nets, but many are stating that he acted negligently in ignoring the fishermen’s signals.
The “Fifty Cent” had no radio to communicate with the cruise liner, but a ship of that size so far from shore is not normal, and many are saying that should have tipped off the captain that the ship was in fact in distress.
The captain could face serious charges as regulations at sea state, “The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance, if possible informing them or the search and rescue service that the ship is doing so.”
This is very sad news, but we applaud the bird watchers aboard the Star Princess for acting so quickly and being proactive in trying to save the lives of the 3 fishermen. We need more cruisers like them out there.
Here is a brief video of an interview of Vasquez. It’s mostly in Spanish in the beginning and it is translated at the end.