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Cruise ship reportedly left fishermen to die at sea

Carnival Cruise Lines is scrambling to avert another public relations nightmare in the wake of reports that one of its luxury ships ignored a distressed fishing boat and left two of the occupants to die at sea.
Passengers on the Star Princess cruise liner say it ignored three fishermen frantically calling for help in the Gulf of Panama. (Joel Estay/Reuters)

Carnival Cruise Lines is scrambling to avert another public relations nightmare in the wake of reports that one of its luxury ships ignored a distressed fishing boat and left two of the occupants to die at sea.

The Panamanian fishing vessel was adrift in the Gulf of Panama with three men aboard when, according to one of them, a large vessel passed but ignored signals for help.

A photo taken by a passenger on the Star Princess apparently shows a stricken boat on the Gulf of Panama, which the cruise liner's crew allegedly ignored.

"Instead of helping us, they left us," said fisherman Adrian Vazquez, whose boat had been drifting for two weeks at that point after losing engine power.

One of Vazquez's fellow fishermen died of dehydration that night. The other died five days later, on March 15.

Vazquez survived; he was rescued March 24 by an Ecuadorian vessel, having spent a month stranded at sea.

Witnesses on the Star Princess cruise ship, which belongs to Carnival Cruise Lines, said they saw men frantically signalling for help and alerted the cruise liner's crew — but the ship didn't stop, nor did it call for assistance.

Passenger Jeff Gilligan said he sensed a "feeling of powerlessness" during the incident.

"Because we would  have liked to have somehow gone over there and rescued it," he said.

Jeff Gilligan, a Star Princess passenger, says he felt 'powerless' when he saw the distressed fishing boat.

One passenger snapped a photo of what appears to be the stricken fishing vessel, showing it adrift on the water.

Carnival hasn't confirmed or denied the allegations but said an internal investigation is underway.

Maritime law requires a ship to assist another that's in distress.

The cruise company is already reeling from the Costa Concordia disaster in January, in which one of its ships ran aground off the coast of Italy, leaving 32 people dead.

Then in February, its liner the Costa Allegra suffered a fire on the Indian Ocean that left the vessel without power for three days.

With files from The Associated Press

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