Princess Cruises released a press release today claiming that the fishing boat observed and photographed by several passengers on the Star Princess cruise ship is not the Fifty Cents fishing boat which contained three young men from Panama.
You will recall that two young Panamanian fisherman died after a cruise ship failed to stop and provide d assistance to them as they floundered in a disabled boat 100 miles at sea. One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived after floating in the derelict boat for a month. When rescued, Vasquez identified a large white cruise ship as the vessel which refused to stop.
The story became more interesting when it was revealed that several passengers (bird watchers) on the Star Princess with high powered lens observed people on a fishing boat waving in distress. They alerted the cruise ship's officers but the ship refused to stop.
You can read our coverage of this saga here.
This case has ended up in court with lawsuits filed by the survivor and the wives and children of the two dead men. Princess Cruises has argued that it has no legal duty to rescue mariners in distress.
Today Princess Cruises issued a press release arguing that it has "new evidence (which) proves Princess Cruises did not fail to rescue adrift fishermen as alleged." The evidence the cruise line points to is not new at all. They are referring to computer generated images created for the cruise line at the request of lawyers to be used to defend the cruise line's legal interests. Princess Cruises hired an "expert" to offer an opinion that there are differences between the fishing boat photographed by the cruise passengers and the computer images of the boat based on snippets of video of the boat on which survivor Vasquez was eventually rescued. You can see the comparison of the actual photo and the computer created images below.
I'm not convinced at all. The "two" vessels are similar in size. Both have white hulls. And both have blue trim, although the size of the trim looks different. But that may be due to the blurry and distorted images which were taken from a long distance. I'm sure that the lawyers for the families of the dead men will retain their own experts to analyze the photo and the computer images to see if they have been altered or enhanced and arrive at their own experts opinions about the matter.
One thing I observed in the video of the Fifty Cents which Princess posted is that it shows a blue awning / tarp at Vasquez's feet, after he was rescued. The photos taken of the fishing boat in distress by the bird watchers clearly show a blue tarp.
Two different white hull fishing boats of the same size, both with blue trim, and both with blue tarps?
But if Princess' paid experts are right that the boat which the bird watchers observed and photographed was not the Fifty Cents, that hardly exculpates Princess. Remember there is no question that the fishing boat that the cruise passengers observed was in distress and its occupants were waving for help far out at sea and, yet, the Princess cruise ship kept on sailing. If Princess, the bird watchers and Vasquez are all right, this would logically and reasonably point to a conclusion that Princess Cruises failed to rescue Fifty Cents and a second fishing boat in distress as well.
Princess' press release states that Princess Cruises "has demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed . . . " But it has filed no motion before the court and submitted no evidence into the record. It has not offered to produce its experts for deposition and cross examination.
It looks like Princess wants to fight this lawsuit in the press. Here's part of the Princess press release:
Robert Peltz of Leesfield & Partners, which represents the family of Fernando Osorio, one of the young men who perished, has issued the following statement:
“This latest move by Princess is the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’ – a hopeless pass and last ditch effort to avoid liability on a legitimate claim. The facts are simple and straight forward. The picture taken by passenger Jeff Gilligen shows the Fifty Cents boat and its passengers Adrian Vasquez, Fernando Osorio and Elvis Diaz desperately reaching out to the Princess cruise ship for rescue. We have solid evidence that confirms that the picture shows the Fifty Cents. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, Princess seems intent on paying so-called ‘experts’ to give them a way out through comparison of grainy, out-of-focus pictures and ‘computer stitched images’. A jury will decide this case and provide the accountability that Princess is clearly incapable of doing on its own.”
Photo credit: Top - Wikipedia / Yankeeman 312; Bottom - Princess Cruises