On March 10, three bird-watching passengers aboard the Star Princess spotted what looked like a stranded fishing boat in the Pacific, reports NPR.
“We then used spotting scopes with a fixed tripod and I could see this strange little boat and at least one person standing up waving a piece of cloth high over his head, up and down,” passenger Jeff Gilligan told MSNBC. “We could see it was not moving – there were nets pulled on to the boat and apparently no nets in the water. So we soon questioned – is this a stranded, disabled boat, signaling us for help?”
Another bird watcher, Judy Meredith, was able to phone up to the ship’s bridge with the help of a crew member. However, the ship never turned back like the trio expected. After not hearing back from the Star Princess’ crew, Meredith sent the ship’s coordinates in an email to a Coast Guard website, to no avail.
The three men were meant to be on an overnight fishing trip, but the boat lost power. According to the Guardian, on the night of March 10, one of the men, Oropeces Betancourt, 24, died of dehydration. Another, Fernando Osorio, 16, died on March 15 from dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke. The sole survivor was 18-year-old Panamanian hotel worker Adrian Vasquez, who was rescued nine days later. He was picked up near the Galapagos Islands 28 days later.
In the NPR report, Meredith was later told by Princess Cruise officials that, according to the captain’s log, the Star Princess was moving through a fishing fleet at the time. Contact was supposedly made with the vessel in question, which asked the ship to change course to avoid damaging their nets. The waving that the bird watchers saw was the fishermen thanking the ship.
In a statement, Princess Cruises said it was aware of the allegations against it and would be conducting an investigation into the matter.
Princess Cruises is owned by Carnival, which also owns Costa Cruises.
Panama-based blogger Don Winner, of panama-guide.com, tracked down Vasquez to confirm whether his story matched with the account from the cruisers. See the video below.