Santa Clarita, CA - Princess Cruises is conducting an ‘internal investigation’ after claims that the captain of one of its ships ignored a passenger’s report of a distress signal from a small fishing vessel. Two of the three people on board that drifting vessel would later die of dehydration.
On Feb 24, Adrian “Santi” Vasquez, 18, set out on a fishing trip with two 16-year-old friends – Oropeces Betancourt and Fernando Osario. After they were at sea, they discovered that the outboard motor on their small fishing vessel – “The Fifty Cent” – would no longer start and they were adrift in the middle of the ocean.
The three men drifted at sea for more than two weeks before they spotted the passing Star Princess cruise ship and started signaling for a help.
On board the Star Princess three passengers were bird watching. Judy Meredith, Jeff Gilligan, and Jim Dowdall were using their spotting scopes and telescopic cameras, so they had a good view of the fishing boat in the distance.
“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,” Meredith told news reporters.
Meredith said they told a cruise line employee to call the bridge to check on the boat. She said the man at the desk made a call, then came back out and looked through their spotting scopes at the boat, then went back inside.
“Nothing happened,” Meredith said. “The ship didn’t slow down. It didn’t seem to change course.”
Dissatisfied, Meredith returned to her room, wrote down the ship’s coordinates, and sent an email to U.S Coast Guard in hopes that they would take action.
“The boat appeared to be a disabled fishing boat with one person aboard and nets strung up from the masts,” Meredith wrote. “The person was actively waving a shirt or fabric object up and down with both hands. … The Star Princess did not turn around or appear to make any active attempt to deal with the [situation].”
An interview with Meredith can be seen here.
The Coast Guard was not able to locate the Fifty Cent, however, and the boat would drift for another two weeks before being rescued March 24 by an Ecuadoran fishing boat. Vasquez was found alone 650 miles off shore. Both Bentancourt and Osario died of dehydration and Vasquez reportedly had to resort to throwing the bodies of his two friends overboard.
Vasquez described the three being hopeful when they saw the Star Princess.
“It was a really big, white ship. I was waving a red T-shirt, and Fernando was waving a bright orange life jacket over his head,” Vasquez later said. “For a minute it looked like they were going to turn to come for us, but then they just went on their way.”
The captain of the Star Princess has claimed that he believed the fisherman were waving at him as a “thank you” for avoiding their nets. An investigation is ongoing.
I don’t know about you… but I cannot imagine my rage if – after two weeks adrift at sea – I got a big f*%& you from a cruise ship and then had to stick it out for two more. It’s mind boggling.Tags: California, dehydration, fishermen, Princess Cruise Lines, Star Princess