News24

Fisherman sues cruise line for not helping

2012-05-14 07:45

Panama City - A Panamanian man who watched his two companions die while surviving at sea for 28 days in their small disabled boat has sued a US cruise line because one of its ships failed to help, his attorney said on Sunday.

Attorney Edna Ramos said the lawsuit alleging negligence by Princess Cruise Lines was filed in a Florida state court on behalf of Adrian Vazquez.

The 18-year-old Vazquez and companions Fernando Osorio, 16, and Elvis Oropeza, 31, set off for a night of fishing on February 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama that was once the site of a US Army base guarding the Panama Canal.

The boat's motor broke down on the way back and the men drifted at sea for 16 days before seeing a cruise ship approach March 10.

Vazquez said the men signalled for help, but the ship did not stop.

Princess Cruises has said passengers never told the ship's captain they saw a boat.

Passengers saw boat

Osorio and Oropeza died later. Vazquez was rescued on March 22 near Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles from where they had set out.

Ramos said the lawsuit includes testimony from two cruise ship passengers who have said they saw the disabled boat and reported it to a cruise representative on the Star Princess liner.

Passenger Jeff Gilligan, a birdwatcher from Portland, Oregon, has told journalists that he was among the first people to notice the small boat.

Another birdwatcher, Judy Meredith of Bend, Oregon, has also said she saw the small open boat and through her bird-spotting scope could see a man waving what looked like a dark red T-shirt.

Meredith has said that she told a Princess Cruises sales representative what she and Gilligan had seen and that he assured her that he passed the news on to the ship's crew.

The two passengers said they put the sales representative on one of the spotting scopes so he could see the small boat for himself.

Comments
  • Zing - 2012-05-14 08:18

    This is a sad story. Imagine the thoughts going through your head as you see the ship sail past and not stop. I'm just wondering - what would be the difference between someone waving a T-shirt in a greeting, and someone signalling an emergency. It's like saying a train should stop every time it passes someone who waves. Our country has very good standards on safety equipment, radios, flares, life-jackets, water, even oars if the boat can be rowed. Without it you may not set out to sea! Their lives might have been saved if they had just one flare . . .

      oddearring - 2012-05-14 08:38

      It is context that makes the difference. This small boat was nowhere near land, in the vast pacific ocean. I would say that that would be a good clue that some assistance was required.

      oddearring - 2012-05-14 08:38

      It is context that makes the difference. This small boat was nowhere near land, in the vast pacific ocean. I would say that that would be a good clue that some assistance was required.

      Jill - 2012-05-14 16:20

      Zing, I know what you are trying to say but I respectfully disagree. I would think that the arm movements of a person waving to say hello and one waving that they needed help would be very different actions surely?. Perhaps their flare had gone over board already as well. The fact that this was a tiny vessel in the sea with someone waving certainly alerted Mrs Meredith who originally reported it to the cruise liners staff who, as we now know, never reported it onto a more senior official. Perhaps if they had two people's lives could have been saved.

  • chris.neary3 - 2012-05-14 12:28

    Why does anyone find this story odd? Due to immigration regulations a vessel will generally ignore dead bodies in the water & people in small boats. If you take onboard a person from a small boat and they turn out to be illegal imigrants you are stuck with them onboard forever unless you can prove what country they belong to. Dead bodies are worse, (Ignoring the practicalities of storage of a decomposing body) a ship will be arrested until the investigation in to the body is concluded costing the shipping company potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds a day. A cruise liner will take up to 7 miles to come to a complete stop and will have a turning radius of several miles. Would you volenteer for the position of the seamen in the resue boat which will take 20 minutes to launch and be five miles away from the vessel by the time you have delt with the rescue? ...and then how do you explain to the paying passengers why their holiday is cut short and deal with the compensation claims? The only thing that went wrong here is the Master not notifying the nearest coastguard. Whether that is a communications fault, misunderstanding or negligence remains to be seen.

  • Jill - 2012-05-14 16:16

    When the original story was published I commented that Mrs Meredith had relied on the integrity of the personnel to whom she reported the incident to, to pass on her message. The fact that they didn't is unfortunate. No amount of money of course will ever compensate this gentleman for the loss of his friends, but the publicity may go a long way in helping someone else if this occurs again.

  • richard.louw.906 - 2012-11-07 15:05

    As an employee of a rival cruise line, it would be easy for me to malign Princess Cruises, but the truth is that most likely the captain of the ship never knew that the raft was there. The captian is not the one on lookout, there are more junior officers doing that job, also they are mostly concentrating on what is ahead of them in the water, they don't spend that much time looking out to the sides of the ship. Basically they have to make sure they don't crash into anything ahead of them, so looking out to the sides a lot will obviously distract them from that. Also if the passengers did report their sighting to a shopping representative, that is probably one of the worst people to report this to, these people are just onboard to help you spend your money and generally have little knowledge of safety procedures, a lot of them also don't work for the cruise line directly and might not be well versed in the relevant ship's procedures. If there is an emergency on a ship, the best is to report it to the main reception/guest services onboard, they would know how to handle the matter and make sure the information actually gets to the correct people.

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