Ignored stranded fisherman sues cruise company

Last updated 16:44 14/05/2012

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A Panamanian man who watched his two friends die while surviving at sea for 28 days in their small disabled boat is suing a US cruise line because one of its ships failed to help.

Lawyer Edna Ramos says the lawsuit alleging negligence by Prince Cruise Lines was filed in a Florida state court on behalf of Adrian Vazquez.

The 18-year-old Vazquez and companions Fernando Osorio, 16, and Elvis Oropeza, 31, set off for a night of fishing on February 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama that was once the site of a US Army base guarding the Panama Canal. The boat's motor broke down on the way back and the men drifted at sea for 16 days before seeing a cruise ship approach on March 10.

Vazquez has said the men signalled for help, but the ship did not stop.

Princess Cruises has said passengers never told the ship's captain they saw a boat.

Osorio and Oropeza died later. Vazquez was rescued on March 22 near Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, more than 965km from where they had set out.

Ramos said the lawsuit included testimony from two cruise ship passengers who said they saw the disabled boat and reported it to a cruise representative on the Star Princess liner.

Passenger Jeff Gilligan, a birdwatcher from Portland, Oregon, has told journalists that he was among the first people to notice the small boat.

Another birdwatcher, Judy Meredith of Bend, Oregon, has also said she saw the small open boat and through her bird-spotting scope could see a man waving what looked like a dark red T-shirt.

Meredith has said that she told a Princess Cruises sales representative what she and Gilligan had seen and that he assured her that he passed the news on to the ship's crew. The two passengers said they put the sales representative on one of the spotting scopes so he could see the small boat for himself.

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- AP

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