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Cruise ship passes by distressed boaters without giving help

An alleged breakdown in communication is being blamed for an incident that led to the wrongful death of two fishermen in the Pacific Ocean. According to reports, a cruise ship may have violated maritime law when it failed to stop and provide aid to three men on a small fishing boat. Two of these men died before they were eventually rescued.

Guests aboard the Star Princess cruise ship say they were on a deck looking at different seabirds through binoculars. They say they had spotted some people drifting on a small boat who were frantically waving their arms, indicating they were in need of help. The passengers of the ship say they notified a worker on the ship that they had seen people about two miles away who were in distress.

Somehow, the captain of the ship claims he never got any message like this. He says that had he gotten the message, he would have done the right thing and stopped to help the fishermen.

The group of bystanders also says that they tried to reach the U.S. Coast Guard but the Internet connection was so slow that their attempts were made in vain. The cruise ship continued on course, passing by the small boat, leaving two of the three fishermen to die.

It is common for cruise ships to help another vessel in trouble. In fact, it is an international maritime law that ships must stop to assist one another if necessary. If a captain fails to do this, he or she may be held liable for anything that happens to the people in distress. Boats that are based in South Florida often come upon rafters who are in trouble and they must stop and help them.

If the captain of the cruise ship knowingly failed to stop and help the men on the small boat, he or the cruise line may be held responsible for the two fatalities as well as any injuries suffered by the third man. They may also have to update their communication systems so that future warnings like this one do not get lost.

Source: Miami Herald, "Star Princess captain never got report of distressed boaters, cruise line says," Hannah Simpson, April 19, 2012

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