MIAMI (CN) – In a “callous disregard for human life,” Princes Cruises spotted a small fishing boat stranded at sea, but ignored them, leaving two of the three on board to die, the sole survivor claims in court.
“This failure to rescue was tantamount to a condemnation of these men to suffer and die at sea,” according to the complaint filed by Adrian Vasquez, an 18-year-old Panamanian fisherman, in Miami-Dade Court.
“On March 10, 2012, a stranded boat, the Fifty Cents, was clearly identified as a vessel in need of rescue by a crewmember of the cruise ship Star Princess,” Vasquez says. “This sighting was further reported by three passengers. Instead of rescuing the stranded men, the Star Princess kept its course. This incident was once again reported to an officer of the Star Princess who continued the pattern of callous disregard for human life and did not act to save the men who were adrift at sea.”
Vasquez says he and his two friends, ages 24 and 16, left on a commercial fishing voyage from Rio Hato, Panama, on Feb. 24, but their boat lost power and drifted out to sea.
The boat had been adrift for 15 days when it crossed paths with Princess Cruises’ ship Star Princess, according to the complaint. Though the luxury cruise ship had been altered to fishermen’s distress, it did not offer assistance, Vasquez says.
“When the plaintiff, Adrian Vasquez, and his now deceased companions, Oropeces Betancourt and Fernando Osoriom, saw the cruise ship they did everything in their power to signal that they were in distress and in need of rescue, including inter alia waving their arms and waving a shirt tied to a pole,” according to the complaint.
“Three passengers aboard the Star Princess who were bird watching at the time spotted the Fifty Cents and concluded that the vessel was in distress and that the men on board were signaling for rescue.
“These three passengers immediately reported the distressed boat to a crewmember of the Star Princess who in turn reported this emergency situation to the bridge. This same crewmember also visually confirmed the distressed boat for himself.
“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.”
Vasquez claims one of his friends died later that day, and the other died another five days after that.
“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.”
Vasquez says he was later rescued after 28 days of being lost at sea and was found almost 600 miles away by the Galapagos Islands.
Adrian Vazquez seeks damages for negligence and emotional distress.
He is represented by Robert Dickman of Dickman, Epelbaum & Dickman in Coral Gables.