Passengers Say Cruise Ship Saw Drifting Boat, Didn't Stop To Help Stranded Men

This is one of those terrible stories that makes you want to scream and yell at your fellow human beings for being so awful. Two men are dead after their small fishing boat lost power in the Pacific Ocean, and now passengers on a passing cruise ship say they alerted the ship’s crew when they spotted the small vessel. But the ship didn’t stop, and only one man survived the ordeal.

NPR says this all came together after three passengers on the Star Princess, operated by Carnival, saw the news about the three men who were stranded at sea for 28 days. They say they were bird-watching on the ship in March during a cruise around South America, when they noticed the smaller boat.

One birder says he saw something through his binoculars more than a mile away.

“We put our scopes on it,” he says, “and we could see a moderate-sized boat with a person standing up in it, waving a dark piece of cloth.”

Another birder says, “We all watched him for a bit and thought, ‘This guy’s in distress. He’s trying to get our attention. And he doesn’t have a motor on his boat.’ We could see that.”

She says she went inside to call the ship’s bridge and tell the crew what they had seen. She tried to make it very clear that there was someone in need of help, and a crew member checked it out with her telescope.

“We were a bit relieved because he had confirmed that he had seen what we were describing,” she said. “We expected the ship to turn back or stop or something.”

That didn’t happen, and they never heard back from the crew. So she marked down the ship’s coordinates and emailed a Coast Guard website, with no results. She followed up at home and contactedPrincess Cruises. She says she was told that according to the ship’s log, they had been passing through a fishing fleet, 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.”

Later, she and her fellow bird-watchers heard of news from Ecuador, in which the coast guard had rescued one surviving man out of three on a fishing vessel. A reporter showed that man a picture the birders took, and he said, “That’s us,” and that they had seen a cruise ship and tried to flag it down with orange flotation devices. One man died the next day, the other, five days later.

Princess Cruises hasn’t addressed the story the bird-watchers say they were told, about passing through a fishing fleet. In a statement, they say: “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. At this time we cannot verify the facts as reported, and we are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter.”

UPDATE: A helpful Consumerist reader sent in a tip with the Corporate Headquarters number for Princess Cruises, noting that they make it hard to find. If enough people call, says our reader, maybe “it’ll light a fire under their asses to do something.”

*Thank you for the tip, Lawrence.

Cruise Ship Didn’t Aid Drifting Boat, Passengers Say [NPR]