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Princess Cruises: Captain didn't know about disabled fishing boat

Judy Meredith talks about trying to alert the crew of a cruise ship she was traveling on that a group of fisherman needed to be rescued in the Pacific Ocean.

UPDATED April 19, 7:25 p.m.: Princess Cruises says the captain of a cruise ship that passed by a disabled fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean last month without stopping was never told about the vessel or the three men aboard.

The company says in a statement Thursday that concerns raised by three birdwatchers who spotted the disabled boat were never passed on to Capt. Edward Perrin, or the officer of the watch.

Judy Meredith of Oregon says she told a sales representative who assured her he notified the bridge, but the ship did not stop.

Three men set out in a small boat from Rio Hato, Panama on Feb. 24. Two of them later died. Survivor Adrian Vasquez says he saw the ship and thought they were saved, but it kept going. 

Original story: A cruise line is investigating allegations by passengers that crew workers ignored their pleas to rescue three fishermen adrift in the Pacific Ocean, the Guardian of London reported.

The allegations cast an uncomfortable light on a hopeful story about the sole survivor of that fishing boat, an 18-year-old hotel worker who survived for 28 days aboard his 10-foot vessel, named the Fifty Cents. He was rescued near the Galapagos Islands, nine days after he had to push his friends’ bodies overboard.

Now cruise ship passengers say those boys could have been saved. Three bird watchers say they alerted the crew of the Star Princess, owned by Carnival Corporation, which also owned the Costa Concordia.

One of the bird watchers told her version of events to Don Winner, an English-language blogger from Panama who tracked down the survivor, Adrian Vasquez. Vasquez confirmed that he and his friends had seen the cruise ship and signaled frantically with his red T-shirt and orange life vest, the Guardian reported.  

The cruise line issued a statement about the allegations Tuesday: "At this time we cannot verify the facts as reported, and we are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter.”

One bird watcher, Jeff Gilligan of Portland, Ore., told the Guardian that while scanning the ocean, he saw an object that looked like a little house.

“We then used spotting scopes with a fixed tripod and I could see this strange little boat and at least one person standing up waving a piece of cloth high over his head, up and down,” he said. "We could see it was not moving – there were nets pulled on to the boat and apparently no nets in the water. So we soon questioned – is this a stranded, disabled boat, signaling us for help?"

They contacted United States authorities when the boat did not turn around but nothing happened.

Vasquez was saved when a rainstorm hit a few days later, which allowed him to fill four gallons of water, the Daily Mail of London reported. He ate raw fish to stay alive.

He was ultimately rescued by fishermen working off a mother ship, the Duarte V.

After he slept and was fed and hydrated intravenously, Vasquez woke.

The captain of the Duarte told the Guardian that he reacted slowly but that he cast down his gaze when the subject of his friends arose.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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