The lone survivor of the infamous "sail by" incident, where the Star Princess cruise ship failed to respond to the disabled Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents, filed suit yesterday against Princess Cruises.
We were the first in the U.S. to write about this terrible incident in our article last month: "Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?"
You will recall that the case involves the plight of Adrian Vasquez, age 18, and the suffering and death of two of his friends, Oropeces Betancourt and Fernando Osorio. The three sailed from the small fishing village of Rio Hato in Panama on February 24, 2012. The boat lost power and drifted 100 miles out to sea. The small boat had been adrift for over two weeks when the large Princess Cruises Star Princess sailed within sight. Notwithstanding the frantic efforts of the men to signal that they were in distress, and the efforts of three cruise passengers who witnessed the spectacle, the cruise ship kept sailing.
The lawsuit alleges that Princess Cruises acted negligently (count I) and / or recklessly and intentionally (count II) in failing to aid the three mariners in distress. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Osorio (age 16), "having lost all hope as the Star Princess sailed away," died later that day. Mr. Betancourt (age 24) suffered for another 5 days and then perished. Survivor Vasquez was rescued around two weeks after the Princess cruise ship sailed out of sight.
The lawsuit claims that even after the initial sighting of the derelict vessel by the three passengers (confirmed by a crewmember), the passengers confronted an officer on the ship and asked what happened to the small fishing boat. The Princess officer provided no explanation and walked away.
The lawsuit alleges that Princess Cruises admitted in a press release that it was its responsibility pursuant to the "Law of the Sea" to provide assistance to any vessel in distress.
We explained this legal obligation in our blog "Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas."
Bermuda (where the cruise ship is flagged) and Panama (all three men were from Panama) have stated that they are investigating the incident.
The lawsuit was filed here in Miami, in the Miami-Dade courthouse.
The lawsuit was filed by local Miami lawyers Dickman, Epelbaum & Dickman.
Princess Cruises, although incorporated in Bermuda to escape U.S. taxes and wage & labor laws, is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California with a significant base of operations in South Florida.
Photo credit: AP / Daily Mail