Lawsuits have piled up this week against Princess Cruises alleging the cruise line was negligent when one of its luxury ships failed to assist a group of distressed fisherman adrift in the Pacific Ocean, ultimately leading to two deaths and one miraculous story of survival.
The lawsuits stem from a April incident where Princess Cruises’ Star Princess ship came within close proximity of the group of three recreational fisherman who had broken down 15 days earlier off the coast of Panama, setting the small fishing boat adrift in the vast Pacific Ocean. Following the chance encounter, two of the fisherman died of dehydration while the third, just 18 years old, was miraculously rescued after 28 days at sea without food or water.
As the media later found out, a group of birdwatchers on the Star Princess spotted the fisherman frantically waving for help, reported what they saw and their concerns to crew, and even snapped photos of the distressed vessel that they later sent to the U.S. Coast Guard. But in spite of the passengers best efforts to relay the information, the Star Princess never stopped, or even investigated, what was reported.
Now, three federal lawsuits have been filed in Miami against Princess Cruises on behalf of each of the three children of the eldest victim, Elvis Antonio Oropeza Diaz, who was 31 when the Star Princess passed him and his group by, seeking damages for negligence, breach of the duty to rescue, and pain and suffering.
“These three cruise passengers immediately reported the distressed boat to a crewmember of the Star Princess who in turn reported this emergency situation to the bridge,” the complaint states. “This same crewmember also visually confirmed the distressed boat for himself.”
However, “Despite this clear notice of a boat in distress, as well as the fact that the small fishing vessel was in clear view of the mammoth cruise ship, said Star Princess failed to discharge its duty to render assistance to the distressed vessel and its occupants.”
“Notably, two days after the sighting incident of March 10, 2012, the three passengers who witnessed the distressed boat followed up with an officer of the Star Princess,” according to the complaint. “They all confronted this officer with the information and as asked him what had happened to the distressed boat they reported. This officer did not have an answer for them and walked away without explanation.”
What exactly happened after the initial report by the cruise ship passengers is still being investigated, but it has been reported that crew members themselves may have seen the distress signals and reported to the ships bridge, although no log of the incident was ever recorded. Meanwhile, the ships captain, Captain Edward Perrin, insists that neither he nor the officer of the watch were notified of the incident.
In a statement, Princess Cruises said there appeared to have been a “breakdown in communication in relaying the passenger’s concern” and notes that the company and its employees understand that a responsibility and the law of the sea is to provide assistance to any vessel in distress.
The lawsuits join an earlier lawsuit filed in May against Princess Cruises by the loan survivor Adrian Vasquez, 18, alleging similar complaints.
Princess Cruises is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Cruises, who was also sued today in connection to the Costa Concordia disaster.