Princess Cruises denies passing by boat with dying fishermen

Princess Cruises said Thursday that a Panamanian fisherman lost at sea falsely accused one of its ships of steaming past without executing a rescue, leaving his two crewmates to die aboard.

The charge brought a dramatic twist in what seemed like a tragic tale at sea.

On March 10, bird-watching passengers aboard the Star Princess spotted what looked like a disabled fishing boat bobbing in the Pacific Ocean off of Panama, snapped some photos, and then began a frantic process of trying to convince the ship’s crew to turn around and rescue the boat. Two weeks later, Adrian Vasquez’s disabled fishing boat, the Fifty Cent, was picked up near the Galapagos Islands after 28 days adrift at sea. His two crew members had died, and the 18-year-old told of a cruise ship that passed within sight but didn’t stop as the three of them waved for help.

Now the Carnival subsidiary says it has both photographs and an analysis of currents and drift patterns to prove the boat spotted by the Star Princess passengers could not have been the Fifty Cent .

“While this remains a tragic story, we are gratified to have scientific confirmation that Star Princess was never in the vicinity of the adrift boat,” Alan Buckelew, CEO of Princess, said in a statement.

Vasquez is suing Princess in Miami federal court, as are the relatives of the two men who died on the Fifty Cent, Elvis Diaz and Fernando Osorio. Miami lawyer Robert Peltz, who represents Osorio’s family, disputed Princess’s new evidence and said the photos taken by the bird-watching passengers are of the Fifty Cent.

“This latest move by Princess is the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’ – a hopeless pass and last ditch effort to avoid liability on a legitimate claim,’’ Peltz, of Leesfield & Partners, said in a statement. “Princess seems intent on paying so-called ‘experts’ to give them a way out through comparison of grainy, out-of-focus pictures and ‘computer stitched images.’”

While Princess now denies passing by the Fifty Cent, the cruise line did say it has reworked policies regarding passengers reporting boats needing rescue.