Princess Cruises is being sued in federal court in Miami for allegedly ignoring a fishing boat in distress, which is illegal under both U.S. and international maritime law. The suit is being brought against the cruise company by Adrian Vasquez, the only one of three men on the stranded vessel who survived the ordeal, and the families of the two men who perished. The fishing boat, which was called the Fifty Cent, was 100 miles from land in March when the Princess Cruises ship Star Princess allegedly passed the ship without offering any assistance, despite the fact that Vasquez and another fisherman on board the imperiled vessel frantically waved a shirt and life jacket to try catch the ship’s attention. As targets of lawsuits tend to do, Princess Cruises is denying the chargers, pointing to both video and photographic evidence to make its case. However, Princess Cruises is battling a narrative told by not only the plaintiffs, but also by Judy Meredith and few other passengers on board the Star Princess at the time of the incident.
Meredith and these other passengers were up early one day of the March voyage to look for birds. Instead of spotting a seabird through her binoculars, though, Meredith claimed she saw a vessel and a man on board waving for help. Having concluded that the man was in distress, Meredith and the other passengers she was with tried to convince the crew to stop the ship to provide aid to the stranded vessel. Their pleas fell on deaf ears, however, and the Star Princess continued on its voyage. Vasquez, his boat swallowed by the sea, was finally rescued 11 days later off the coast of Ecuador.
How does Vasquez know that the ship he saw was the Star Princess? This is the question on which the entire case hangs. The birdwatchers took photos of the boat they believed to be in distress, and Vasquez claims that the boat in the pictures was in fact his. However, Princess Cruises hired a photo analyst to examine the photos, and the cruise line claims that pictures taken by the birdwatchers show a boat that is visibly distinct from the Fifty Cent. For instance, Vasquez’s boat had two stripes on it, whereas the boat in the birdwatchers’ photos has only one stripe, according to Princess Cruises.
The most recent development in the case is that Princess Cruises has unearthed a video of the fishing vessel that “conclusively proves” that the ship Vasquez spotted was not the Star Princess. Princess Cruises will submit this evidence to the judge in an attempt to get the case dismissed immediately. Vasquez’s attorney thinks it is unlikely that the case will get dismissed, and says that Princess Cruises most recent claim is merely one several “excuses” the cruise line has come up with to try explain why they didn’t rescue his client. As stated above, the case is now in front of a federal judge, and if it moves to the trial stage, it will be up to a jury to decide whose story is true.