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Cruise ship ignored boat in distress, passengers say

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Star Princess (Princess Cruises)

A boat found in the Pacific Ocean after nearly a month at sea with two of three crew members dead had been passed by an American cruise ship weeks earlier, some passengers on board said.

NPR’s Morning Edition reported bird watchers on the Star Princess spotted a small boat off the coast of Panama that appeared to be in distress on March 10. NPR showed photos taken by one of the bird watchers on its website.

The photographer said a person was standing up in the boat waving a dark piece of cloth.

Another bird watcher said she tried to contact the ship’s bridge, or commanding area, about the boat, but they only were able to get in contact with a member of the sales team. That bird watcher said the sales rep looked through his binoculars and confirmed what they were seeing.

The bird watchers hoped the rep would alert the ship’s bridge about the boat and maybe turn around to help. However, the boat never turned around.

Two of the three people on board the boat died of lack of water and exposure by the time the boat was found weeks later. In a video interview, the survivor told a reporter with panama-guide.com that the photos taken by the bird watchers was indeed of their boat.

The 18-year-old survivor also told the reporter that the crew did see a cruise ship.

One of the bird watchers said a customer service representative told her that the person was waving the cloth not in distress but to thank the ship for altering its course to avoid their fishing nets.

Officials with Princess Cruises, which owns the Star Princess, said they are conducting an internal investigation and could not confirm the bird watcher’s account of what the customer service representative told her.

Read more of the account, and watch the video, on NPR’s website.