Adrian Vasquez - click photo for new Maritime Executive story
Back in April, a cruise line news story broke that shocked everyone, particularly coming on top of the then-recent COSTA CONCORDIA fiasco. The Princess Cruises ship STAR PRINCESS was accused of failing to aid three Panamanian fishermen adrift in the Pacific between Panama and the Galapagos Islands. The three men had been drifting for about two weeks at that point and were in severe distress - one of them died that night. 

Passengers on the cruise ship had taken photos and alerted a crew member to an apparent boat in distress, but the message never got to the bridge team or the Master, and the ship did not stop to render aid. When the passengers' photos were released, along with their allegations - and the lone survivor, Vasquez, was picked up near the Galapagos after 28 days at sea - a firestorm of accusations and lawsuits against Princess Cruises broke out.

Photo taken by passenger - click for gCaptain story
Here is a photo taken by cruise passenger Jeff Gilligan - you can click the image to go to the story that appeared on the gCaptain site at the time. The gCaptain story also has an enlarged image and a video interview with Adrian, done in Panama shortly after his rescue. (Also, click "Fishermen Ignored" in the Categories listing on the right side of the page for an earlier post with other news links from that time.)

Now lawyers for Princess are claiming that a video taken at the time Adrian Vasquez was rescued exonerates the cruise line. They have had the passenger photos and the rescue video analyzed by a former NASA photo analyst, and say that this new evidence proves that the boat in the photos could not have been Vasquez' boat, FIFTY CENT. Here's the video, and further down an enlargement of one of the photos, zoomed in on the boat the passengers saw - see what you think:

It appears to me that the boat in the photos may lack the heavy blue stripes and prominent name evident in the video of Vasquez' rescue, although it certainly has some similar decoration - but the photos were taken at such a distance I can't be absolutely sure.

The photo analyst hired by Princess Cruises no doubt had means to examine the distant image in more detail.  But from what I can see on these publicly available images, their evidence is far from a slam-dunk. It still seems to me that it could be Adrian's boat. What's your judgment - does Princess have a point here?

At the bottom of the post, see a public relations release by Princess Cruises, laying out their evidence. Again, thought-provoking - but to my eye, not conclusive.

There's also the identification that Adrian made of the STAR PRINCESS, although he might have already been familiar with the ship. But why would he identify her as the ship they had seen that fateful day? I'd like to know more about that.
In addition, Princess Cruises lawyers claim that an analysis of wind and current shows that FIFTY CENT would not have drifted on a track that could have intercepted the course of STAR PRINCESS. They're saying that the boat photographed by the passengers, therefore, had to be another vessel. I don't feel qualified to comment on that likelihood, however. Are you familiar with the currents on that coast - can you give us the benefit of local knowledge?

Princess Cruises PR release - click image for Cruise Law News story
At left, see a PR release from Princess intended to illustrate their case.

If you click the image, you'll go to an interesting post on Cruise Law News that makes some cogent points - among them, that if the boat photographed by the passengers is not FIFTY CENT, then the ship might have passed up two vessels in distress: FIFTY CENT,  and a second unknown similar vessel. Lots of questions!

Has anyone out there had direct contact with this story? Can you speak to the allegation that FIFTY CENT could not have drifted across STAR PRINCESS' track? Or, have you seen any useful news links or other resources that you could share? Please respond in the Comments section!

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