Earlier this month two men died on a small fishing boat that was lost at sea for 28 days. But the tragedy may have been avoidable. Passengers aboard the Carnival Star Princess Cruise Ship say that they spotted the drifting boat in the Atlantic Ocean, but the ship refused to stop for help.
NPR reports that the fishing boat was spotted by three bird-watchers who were on the Star Princess cruise ship. The three passengers were using powerful binoculars and telescopes to look for seabirds when they spotted something drifting in the water about a mile away from the ship.
Jeff Gilligan, one of the bird watchers, said:
“We put our scopes on it and we could see a moderate-sized boat with a person standing up in it, waving a dark piece of cloth.”
Judy Meredith, another bird watcher, said:
“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.”
The three bird watchers got a hold of the member of the crew and told them what they had seen. One of the crew members even used Gilligan’s telescope to take a look at the drifting boat.
“We were a bit relieved because he had confirmed that he had seen what we were describing. We expected the ship to turn back or stop or something.”
But the ship never turned. Gilligan said that when they realized that the Carnival Star Princess wasn’t going to rescue the ship, he assumed that the captain had contacted authorities in Panama.
When the cruise was over, Judy Meridith contacted the Star Princess to find out what happened to the fishing ship. Meridith was told that the Captain had contacted the ship and that the ship wasn’t in distress. A representative for the company told Meridith that the fishing boat asked the Star Princess “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.”
A few days later, the 10-foot fishing boat was found near Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles away from where it was launched. Two of the three men on the ship had died.
According to NPR, International Maritime Law requires a ship to rescue or give assistance to a vessel in distress.
Princess Cruises said in a statement:
“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.”