Second Lawsuit Filed Against Princess Cruises For Failing to Rescue Mariners in Distress

As expected, Princess Cruises was named as a defendant in a second lawsuit filed in Miami arising out of the high profile case where the Star Princess cruise ship sailed by a small fishing boat called Fifty Cents with three young men aboard 100 miles out at sea, leaving two of the men to die.

Three passengers observed the small vessel with the men waiving in distress and alerted the cruise ship's crew.  Princess initially claimed that the cruise ship communicated with the men aboard the fishing boat who allegedly thanked them for avoiding their nets - a story that was publicly ridiculed. Princess then changed course and claimed that the passengers' account of seeing the stricken fishing Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Sail By - Princess Cruisesboat was never communicated to the bridge. 

This lawsuit against Princess Cruises was filed on behalf of the family of 16 year old Fernando Osorio Rodriguez, the youngest to die.   He reportedly died later at night on the same day that the Princess cruise ship sailed by.  He left behind his mother, father and four siblings.

The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18 year old Adrian Vazquez, who survived after suffering at sea for a month.  he was finally rescued some 600 miles from the fishing village where the men sailed from. 

The Miami Herald, which usually avoids stories which put the cruise lines in a bad light quoted Rodriquez's lawyer, Ira Leesfield, stating "It’s always been the moral and legal obligation of larger, well-equipped vessels to help people out . . . I don’t think you can put the expediency and the convenience and the economics of the ship that could rescue and save people’s lives before the value of people’s lives, and I think that’s what happened here. It’s really inexcusable.” 

We were the first to report on the case in the U.S. in our articles:

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises

Lawsuit By Panamanian Survivor Against Princess Cruises Hits The National Press

The U.S. national media has now focused on a lawsuit arising out of the notorious "sail by" where a Princess cruise ship sailed by three desperate Panamanian men lost at sea in a disabled little fishing boat.  Two young men from Panama, age 16 and 24 died.  One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived but had to endure the horror of watching his friends suffer and die at sea.

We first reported on the lawsuit in Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises.

Now all of the major newspapers and media sources are on to the story.  The article Panama Fisherman Sues Cruise Line For Not Helping is on the first page of Yahoo News.  

Adrian Vasquez - Fishermen - Princess Cruises - PanamaThe facts of this case are particularly outrageous and could not come at a worst time for the cruise industry. First, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship alters course to impress the residents of Giglio (not to mention his girlfriend) and wrecks the cruise ship and kills 32 people.  Now, the captain of the Star Princess refuses to alter course and kills two men in the process.  

It is always interesting to scan through the comments to news articles to get a feeling how the public reacts to stories like this about the cruise lines. The comments about Princess Cruises and the cruise industry today are brutal. Here are examples from the Yahoo article:

"Maritime law and morality was abandoned. A place in hell is reserved for anyone involved in abandoning those in need of rescue at sea . . . "

"I don't trust Cruise Lines period, I'm glad this man is suing the cruise-liner, restitution for the victims families."

"I hope the goal is not to settle but to seek punishment for this criminal act."

"It's called manslaughter. The captain should be charged. He knows the maritime law. - and he's just as bad as that Italian captain who was the 1st one off the sinking ship."

"I hope he wins the case, although Princess will probably try to crush him with lawyers and legal stall tactics."

This is a case which Cruise Law News will be watching closely.  Cruises lines like Princess will not try and reach a reasonable settlement with the young Panamanian man.  Princess Cruises' first step will be to try and dismiss the case from Florida and prevent the case from reaching a jury.

Stay tuned.

 

Read our other articles on this story:

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners In Distress?

 

Art Credit: Hung, Drawn and Cultured

Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises

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.

Adrian Vasquez - Fifty Cents - Star Princess - Cruise Sail ByThe 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

Panama Opens Criminal Investigation Into Princess Cruises - Captain Perrin to Face Homicide & Failure to Rescue Inquiries

A reader of Cruise law News in Panama brought an article in the Panamanian newspaper Prensa, entitled "MP Abre Sumario a Capitán de Crucero" to my attention this morning.    

As I predicted last week, Panama has decided to proceed with a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Master of the Princess Cruises cruise ship Star Princess, for failing to assist three young Panamanian men who were adrift 100 miles out to sea aboard the Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents.  

Several passengers observed the fishing boat in distress and tried to convince the cruise ship to assist. Initial reports indicate that officers aboard claim that they were avoiding fishing nets and allegedly were thanked Princess Cruises - Star Princess - Panama Fifty Centsby the fishing boat. Princess Cruises later claimed that the captain of the cruise ship was never informed of the people in distress.     

The article explains that the Public Ministry (MP) of Panama launched an investigation into the deaths of two Panamanian fishermen, who went adrift in their fishing boat on February 24, 2012. 

The investigation was initiated by a Panamanian lawyer who filed a complaint on April 18, 2012. The aunt of one of the dead fishermen, Fernando Osorio, was quoted by a newspaper in Panama, My Diary, "I ask that you drop the full weight of the law" on the captain. She referred to her 16 year old nephew as a human being, not an animal to be left in the sea.

The General Secretariat of the MP referred the investigation to the Homicide Division of the Judicial Investigation Department.

Last week, I wrote about the duties owed to persons in distress at sea and the rights of the cruise ship flag state, Bermuda, and the  government of Panama to pursue criminal charges: Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

My prediction?  Bermuda will do a favor for its cruise line customer, Princess Cruises, and exonerate Captain Perrin. Panama will issue an arrest warrant for the captain and a writ of attachment to seize the next Princess cruise ship sailing through the Panama Canal . . .    

 

Read our first article about this case: Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Photo credit: MY DIARY | Roca Gonzalez Edilsa

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Did Princess Cruises forsake young fishermen to die an excruciating death in order to keep its cruise itinerary?

That's what Don Winner, a blogger for Panama-Guide.com, wants to know.  Mr. Winner reports on some disturbing developments in his article "Panama Castaways Were Spotted By Cruise Ship Passengers - And Ignored By Ship's Captain."

The story involves the intersection of the paths of two ships, from different worlds so to speak,  The first vessel  - Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Star Princess Cruise Shipthe Star Princess Star, a large luxury cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises of the Love Boat fame - filled with passengers enjoying a fun vacation.  The second vessel - Fifty Cents, a small (26 foot) fishing boat - with three young men aboard: Fernando Osorio, age 16; Adrian Vasquez, age 18; and Oropeces Betancourt, 24, all from Panama.

The crucial moment came on the morning of March 10, 2012 when the Star Princess was making the crossing from Ecuador to Costa Rica.  Mr. Winner writes that the little fishing boat's engine was dead and the boat was adrift when the giant Star Princess was seen steaming in its direction. The fishermen, who had been at sea for 2 weeks, waived for assistance but the cruise ship passed by.  The distraught fishermen must have concluded that their frantic waves were not seen by anyone on the cruise ship.

But it turns out that three cruise passengers (all bird watchers, with either keen vision and/or equally keen binoculars) observed the men calling for help and urgently alerted a crew member and pressed the matter further.  The cruise ship failed to stop.  One passenger tried to email the Coast Guard. When she contacted Princess' corporate offices in California, she was given the usual corporate non-response.     

The Star Princess' failure to assist the stricken vessel resulted in Oropeces Betancourt, 24, dying of dehydration later that same day. The youngest fisherman, Fernando Osorio, 16, died five days later after suffering from dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke.  Another nine days elapsed before Adrian Vasquez, 18, who survived on fish and rain water, was finally saved (while unconscious) from his ordeal near the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles from where the three young men had originally sailed from.

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K has picked up on the story. One of the three passengers who spotted the small boat, Judy Meredith, 65, from Bent, Oregon, told Adrian Vernandez - Fifty Cents - Star Princessthe Guardian:  "Finding out later that the Fifty Cents continued at sea for over two more weeks was horrific news. And two of the men died and both could have lived, had the cruise ship responded to our urgent request."

Mr. Winner subsequently contacted Vasquez, who confirmed that they had seen the cruise ship and had "signaled frantically with his red T-shirt and the orange life vest, believing it would rescue them."

Mr. Winner has published AIS tracking data (see below) indicating that the Star Princess was in the area at the time.  He has written a second article: "Captain Edward Perrin - In Command Of Cruise Ship That Failed To Rescue Panamanian Castaways" which appropriately questions why the Master of the Princess cruise ship failed to respond to the emergency.  As Mr. Winner correctly points out:

Regulation 33 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Chapter V states:

"The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance,

According To The Merchant Ship Search and Rescue Manual (MERSAR):

"It is accepted as the normal practice of seamen, indeed there is an obligation upon masters, that they render every assistance within their power in cases where a person or persons are in distress at sea. These obligations are set out in regulation V/10 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea." 

Princess Cruise Ship - Star Princess - Tracking Info AISThe families of the young dead fishermen deserve an explanation why their children died at sea in this manner.

What say you Captain Perrin?  

Will Princess Cruises let you talk?

This story deserves a wider audience and discussion. Please take a moment to post the story on your facebook page, tweet it, and ask Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival, for an explanation.

I asked Carnival for a statement and was told to contact Princess Cruises who I have not heard from yet.

April 18, 2012 Update:  Here's Princess Cruises' official statement we received last night.  It's disappointing to received something like this 5 weeks after the incident:

"We’re aware of the allegations that Star Princess supposedly passed by a boat in distress that was carrying three Panamanian fishermen on March 10, 2012. At this time we cannot verify the facts as reported, and we are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter.

We were very saddened to learn that two lives were lost aboard the boat, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families involved.

Princess Cruises is dedicated to the highest standards of seamanship wherever our ships sail, and it is our duty to assist any vessel in distress. We have come to the aid of many people at sea, and we will continue to do so."

April 18, 2012 Update:  NPR has a story today indicating that one of the passenger contacted Princess Cruises after the cruise to see what action was taken. She says a customer relations representative told her "the captain reported a different version of the incident — and that according to the captain's log, the ship had been passing through a fishing fleet."

Meredith says she was told that the Star Princess contacted the boat and "that they were asking the ship to move to the west, because they didn't want their nets to be damaged. And that the ship altered course. And they were waving their shirts because they were thanking the ship." 

Did Captain Edward Perrin falsify his logs?

One thing that readers should remember is that Princess is conducting what it calls an "internal" investigation.  This means that it is obviously not public.  It's a closed, secret investigation that no one will know about except Princess' management and lawyers.

The other disturbing although predictable thing is that that Bermuda, the flag state, admits that it has not even decided to conduct an investigation.  Remember, Princess incorporated in Bermuda and flies flags of convenience on its ships to avoid paying U.S. income taxes or comply with U.S. safety laws and labor / wage laws.  Bermuda has a poor record of investigating crimes and instances of dereliction of duty.    

KPIC in Oregon has a video interview with one of the cruise passengers who spotted the disabled boat and says that he is "heartbroken" by the deaths of the men he saw waving for help. 

April 19, 2012 Update:  Princess has a new PR plan.  

Princess changes course, admits error, says Captain didn't know and is "devastated."

Not as devastated as the family of the dead.

 

 

Other coverage:

Panama-Guide.com 

KTVZ Oregon Video of Judy Meredith - watch video

BBC Radio 4 - 9 minute interview of cruise passenger who spotted boat, and Jim Walker regarding maritime law (starts at 36:25 mark) 

Examiner "Princess Cruise Line accused of ignoring doomed Panamanian fishermen

Christopher Elliott "Did Princess ship ignore a vessel asking for help?"

Mail Online U.K.  "Another Costa calamity: Concordia's sister cruise liner 'ignored' passenger pleas to help stranded fishing boat... on which two of its three crew died"

Guardian newspaper U.K. (by Gwyn Topham who has also written about cruise lines' poor response to overboard passengers) 

TVN Noticias "Crucero ve a pescadores panameños varados y pasa de largo"

Sun Sentinel "Report: Carnival reviewing claims a Princess ship ignored distressed fishermen"

MSNBC: "Passengers say cruise ship ignored stranded fishing boat"

National Public radio (NPR): "Cruise Ship Didn't Aid Drifting Boat, Passengers Say"

KPIC (Oregon) Cruise Passenger Heartbroken after Princess Cruise Ship Doesn't Stop

Columbia newspaper Semana: "Crucero ve a pescadores panameños varados y pasa de largo"

Swedish newspaper: "Kryssningsfartyg uppges ha ignorerat nödställda fiskare

German newspaper:  "Kreuzfahrtschiff soll Fischer in Seenot ignoriert haben

Huffington Post: "Princess Cruise Ship Allegedly Ignores Fishing Vessel In Distress"  

Globe and Mail "Drifting fishermen die after luxury cruise liner sails past but doesn't stop"

 

Photo credits:

Top: Fifty Cents fishing boat - Jeff Gilligan

Middle:  Adrian Vasquez rescued - AP via Mail Online

Bottom: Star Princess AIS tracking - Don Winner @Panama_Guide