Carnival Corporation conducting internal investigation
Passengers: Carnival cruise ship ignored fishing boat in distress
Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship operator, is conducting an internal investigation after passengers said one of its crews ignored a fishing ship and its crew in distress.
Adrian Vasquez, an 18-year-old fisherman from Panama, made headlines last month when he was found alive after being lost at sea near the Galapagos Islands for 26 days.
The two other young men in the 10-foot fishing vessel, Oropeces Betancourt, 24, and Fernando Osorio, 16, died of dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke.
Passengers on the Star Princess, a Carnival Corporation luxury cruise ship passing from Ecuador to Costa Rica, claim they saw three distressed men in a fishing boat, called the Fifty Cents, and alerted the crew.
“I saw a young man in the front of the boat waving his shirt up and down. Big motions, up over his head and down to the floor, waving it vigorously. Frantically I would say,” said Judy Meredith, a Star Princess passenger, to Good Morning America.
“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,” she said.
The company has not released the results of their probe. “We’re aware of the allegations that Star Princess supposedly passed by a boat in distress that was carrying three Panamanian fishermen on 10 March, 2012,” said a company spokesman, reported the Guardian.
“At this time we cannot verify the facts as reported, and we are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter.”
The investigation comes months after the Costa Concordia disaster, which left 32 people dead after the Carnival-owned cruise ship was grounded off the Italian coast and abandoned by an incompetent captain.
Carnival, which has twice as many ships and employees as the second-largest cruise line operator, Royal Caribbean Cruises, reported revenues of $14.5 billion in its 2010 fiscal year.
Don Winner, a Panama-based blogger, found Vasquez, the surviving fisherman, who confirmed he and his friends saw the wayward fishing boat, carrying men signaling to the cruise ship by waving a red T-shirt and orange life vest.
It was a group of birders on the Star Princess — which can hold some 2,000 passengers, has four pools, a nine-hole putting green and a casino — who spotted the Fifty Cents.
Jeff Gilligan, from Portland, Ore., said he used his binoculars to see the craft, more than a mile away, reported NPR.
“We put our scopes on it,” he said, “and we could see a moderate-sized boat with a person standing up in it, waving a dark piece of cloth.”
The birders say they notified the crew, then the U.S. Coast Guard. But the ship didn’t stop.
Fifty Cents did not have a functional radio. It was a fluke rainstorm, during which Vasquez captured rain water for drinking, that saved him from dying. He was eventually rescued near the Galapagos Islands, hundreds of miles from his home.
International Maritime law states that if vessels come across others in need of help, they must, without endangering themselves, assist them.
Edward Perrin, the veteran captain of the Star Princess, has declined to comment. If he is found to have acted negligently in ignoring the fisherman’s signals, he could face criminal charges.