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Cruise line: Captain never told about stranded fishermen sighting

April 20, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Star Princess passenger Jeff Gilligan snapped this photo of the distressed fishing boat he saw from the cruise ship. Only one of the men in the boat survived.
Star Princess passenger Jeff Gilligan snapped this photo of the distressed… (Jeff Gilligan )

Princess Cruises says it will continue to investigate why the Star Princess cruise ship in March passed up a fishing boat in distress, leaving two Panamanian men in the boat to die.

The cruise line also said it “deeply regrets” the incident off the South American coast that it blames on a communication glitch. Passengers aboard the cruise ship spotted the small boat and alerted crew members, but the message never got to the ship’s captain and no action was taken, the cruise line said.

“The preliminary results of our investigation have shown that there appeared to be a breakdown in communication in relaying the passenger's concern,” the cruise line said in a statement Thursday. “Neither Capt. Edward Perrin nor the officer of the watch were notified.”

The cruise line also said the captain was upset at being accused of leaving the men to die and that he would have tried to save the men as international law requires had he been aware of the sighting.

Princess made the statement after a National Public Radio story detailed the account of bird-watcher Jeff Gilligan of Portland, Ore., who saw the boat through his binoculars from the Star Princess' deck and snapped a picture on March 10. He and two other passengers talked with crew members, at one point even showing them the boat through their scopes, and trusted that the message would be given to the captain.

But nothing happened. After returning home, the story says, one concerned passenger was told by a customer representative at Princess "that [the fishermen in the boat] were asking the ship to move to the west, because they didn't want their nets to be damaged. And that the ship altered course. And they were waving their shirts because they were thanking the ship."

Adrian Vasquez, 18, the sole survivor aboard the fishing boat, recounted the 28 days he and two others drifted during what was supposed to be an overnight excursion. Vasquez said he had seen the cruise ship and signaled it when his two companions were still alive, but the ship didn't stop.

One died the day after the Star Princess passed by, the other five days later, he said. Vasquez was finally rescued by the Ecuadorean coast guard.

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