Princess Cruise Lines Sued for Failing to Assist Stranded Boat Passengers
Adrian Vasquez, an 18-year-old Panamanian fisherman, has sued Princess Cruise Lines for negligence.
Vasquez, along with 16-year-old Fernando Osorio and 24-year-old Oropeces Betancourt, had planned a nighttime fishing trip on February 24, 2012. They left from the Panamanian fishing town of Rio Hato. On their way back to shore, their boat’s motor suddenly broke down, leaving the three men stranded at sea.
They had been drifting at sea for 15 days when they sighted a passing cruise ship. The ship, named the Star Princess, is owned by Princess Cruise Lines. The men yelled and waved their shirts to signal for help, but the ship did not stop to assist them. Vasquez was finally rescued on March 22 near the Galapagos Islands after spending a total of 28 days lost at sea. By this time, his two companions had already died. The boat had drifted thousands of miles from Rio Hato.
Lawsuit Alleges Outrageous Conduct by Princess Crew
The lawsuit was filed in a circuit court in Miami, Florida. The lawsuit alleges that the crew of the Star Princess neglected to offer any assistance to the distressed fishing vessel, and that this failure to assist led to the untimely demise of two of the passengers. Because of their negligence, Vasquez was forced to drift at sea for nearly two weeks in an open vessel. He claims that the captain of the Star Princess should have redirected the boat in order to rescue the distressed fisherman, preventing the deaths of two men. In his lawsuit, he accuses Princess Cruise Lines of “outrageous conduct” and “callous disregard for human life” by failing to offer assistance.
Vasquez is seeking compensation for physical, emotional and psychological injuries that he has suffered as a result of the company’s negligence.
Passengers Claim They Alerted Crew
At least two passengers aboard the Star Princess claim that they had seen the boat and had reported the sighting to crew members. Jeff Gilligan and Judy Meredith, both birdwatchers from Oregon, have stated that they observed the small fishing boat. Meredith says that she was able to view the boat through her bird-spotting scope. Aided by the scope, she could see a man waving a T-shirt aboard the fishing vessel. At the time of the sighting, the fishing vessel was more than 100 miles away from the nearest shore.
Gilligan and Meredith say that they located a Princess crew member and explained what they saw. They claim that they pointed out the boat to the crew member and let him use their spotting scopes so he could get a better look at the stranded boaters. The crew member allegedly reported the incident to other Princess employees, but Princess contends that the captain was never made aware of the issue. The company blames a breakdown in communication among the ship’s crew members. They insist that, had the captain known of the situation, he would have offered assistance to the drifting fishermen.
Captain Had Duty to Render Assistance
International maritime law imposes a duty to render assistance. A ship’s captain has an obligation to rescue distressed boaters and provide assistance to boaters who are lost at sea. Princess Cruises stated that the captain was not aware that there were nearby boaters in distress. The company blames a miscommunication among the ship’s crew members. They insist that, had the captain known of the situation, he would have offered assistance to the drifting fishermen.
The concerned passengers state that they had later inquired about the fishing boat passengers but the crew was unable to provide an update. The company’s representatives have declined to comment on this allegation due to the company’s ongoing investigation.
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