Captain Edward Perrin - In Command Of Cruise Ship That Failed To Rescue Panamanian Castaways
Monday, April 16 2012 @ 02:34 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Update, Follow-Up, and Clarification: This article contains updates and new information I've discovered since Saturday. It also contains corrections and clarifications of some of the details published in the original article. I've made efforts to contact the Carnival Corporation & PLC, the company that owns the Star Princess cruise ship, ultimately responsible for the actions (or in this case, failure to act) on the part of Captain Edward Perrin. I've sent a request for information to the US Coast Guard in the United States, to follow-up on the report sent to them by Judy Meredith on 10 March 2012, about the sighting of the "Fifty Cent" and the failure of the Star Princess to rescue the fishermen in distress. And, I've also been making some efforts to get the story picked up by the local Panamanian media, as well as AP, Reuters, and the major news networks in the United States. Maybe it would help if everyone knew that the Star Princess is owned by the same company as the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which ran aground in Italy? (more)
Clarification and Expansion: It's common for stories such as this to develop and become more clear over time. After I published the original article, Judy Meredith wanted me to clarify a couple of points;
- Two Americans, One Irishman: In my original report I thought all three birdwatchers were Americans. It turns out Judy Meredith and Jeff Gilligan are Americans, while the third person of their group, Jim Dowdell, is Irish. And she also confirmed something else I already suspected - these people "live and breathe" bird watching - it's a huge part of their lives. On an earlier trip they had actually spotted and "discovered" a new bird that was previously unknown to science. These guys are hardcore.
- Time Of Day: Judy said it was common on the ship for there to be some sort of confusion over exactly what was the time of day, mostly because the ship was transiting through different time zones as they progressed. From our first conversations I had come away with the impression that their sighting of the "Fifty Cent" had occurred during the morning hours. Judy said it was more likely to have been mid afternoon, at approximately 3:00 pm or so.
- Length Of Observation: Judy said they first spotted the drifting Panamanian fishing panga the "Fifty Cent" off of the starboard (right) side of the ship, at about the 2 o'clock position. She said they were able to observe the fishing vessel for at least 30 minutes as they passed by, maybe as long as 45 minutes. She said the fishing vessel was dead in the water, and showed no signs of being under power or having working engines.
- Distance From Star Princess: I've also been talking to Jeff Gilligan, who was one of the other birdwatchers with Judy, who took the photograph of the panga "Fifty Cent" from the Star Princess. He clarified the photo was taken with a 300 mm telephoto lens using a 1.4x extender. So effectively the photo was taken at the maximum reach of a 420mm lens. Now, it's notoriously difficult to estimate distances on the open ocean. Jeff is going to try to conduct some experiments or recreations using known distances, to give me his "best guess" estimate of how far the "Fifty Cent" was from the Star Princess at the time the photo was taken.
- Verification By Ship's Crew: When I first spoke to Judy I got the impression that the crew member on the Star Princess who was in communications with the bridge - who had come out on the deck and looked through the birdwatcher's tripod mounted 30X stabilized spotting scope - had also agreed and concurred with them that yes, he had also seen the fishermen on the "Fifty Cent" signalling their distress. Judy said that he had, in fact, come out and looked through their spotting scope. Judy said the "kid from the desk" really did not give them any information, but rather he just passed the report to the bridge. He was using a sort of mobile phone to communicate with the ship's bridge, but he did not give any sort of feedback to the birdwatchers. He did say that yes, he could see the people on the "Fifty Cent" through the spotting scope, but he didn't seem or act "impressed," and he did not get excited. He did say "I can see someone out there," and "I can see the boat," and "I see what they see." He told the birdwatchers "I don't know how you saw that," which can be taken a couple of different ways. But they did make sure the report was passed to the bridge, saying things like "and now he's waving a red flag."
- Feedback From Carnival: The report about how Captain Edward Perrin changed course to the West to supposedly avoid some fishing nets was given to Judy by Carnival. After the cruise was over, and when the story of the rescue of Adrian Vasquez was in the news, she contacted the company to ask them about the incident. The company conducted a sort of internal investigation. At that time Captain Edward Perrin was not in command of the Star Princess (there are normally two Captains who rotate). However they did check the ship's log for that time on 10 March 2012, and there was the entry about how the ship had deviated to the West to avoid the fishing nets, how they were supposedly "in contact" with the fishermen, and how they had supposedly "signaled their thanks" for having avoided the nets. In my original report I thought that feedback came from the bridge in real time, relayed through the crew member. Judy has since clarified for me - she got that later, directly from the company, in response to her inquiries.
The Track Of The Star Princess: I've been able to verify that the position report provided by Judy Meredith was spot-on. I was able to use this website to recover the tracking data for the Star Princess as reported automatically via the AIS system and logged into their database, as follows. All times reported a UTC - or - local Panama time, plus five hours. So, 10 March 2012 at 22:00 hours UTC is 17:00 hours local Panama time, or 5:00 pm. Here are the plots as reported by AIS:
- 2012-Mar-11 03:00 N 07°30' W 084°00'
- 2012-Mar-10 23:00 N 06°48' W 083°42'
- 2012-Mar-10 22:00 N 06°30' W 083°36'
- 2012-Mar-10 12:00 N 03°00' W 082°12'
- 2012-Mar-10 09:00 N 02°00' W 081°48'
- 2012-Mar-10 08:00 N 01°42' W 081°36'
- 2012-Mar-10 07:00 N 01°24' W 081°30'
- 2012-Mar-10 06:00 N 01°00' W 081°24'
Plotted On A Map: And here's a graphic of those plots on a Google Earth map. On this map the plot that says "Cruiseship Location" is the approximate location of the sighting, as reported by Judy during the afternoon of 10 March 2012 - and it's right on the money. The point where the green track of the Star Princess crosses with the red track of the Fifty Cent is where the sighting occurred.
Seeking Official Response: The Star Princess is owned by the Carnival Corporation & PLC. In an attempt to obtain a version of events from the head corporate office, I sent the following email to the company yesterday afternoon;
- On 10 March 2012 three birdwatchers were aboard the Star Princess as it transited from Ecuador to Costa Rica. Using high powered and sophisticated optics and spotting scopes, they observed a small fishing vessel located more than 130 miles from the closest land. The people on the small fishing vessel were frantically signaling for help, and they needed rescue. The small fishing vessel was apparently drifting and was not under power. The people on board were signaling by waving a red t-shirt over their heads, and by waving a bright orange life preserver up and down, from head to foot. They had no other way to signal, no flares, no radio, no signal mirrors, or anything else.
- The birdwatchers notified a member of the ship’s crew, who spoke directly with the bridge using a ship’s phone. The crew member actually looked through the tripod mounted 30X image stabilized spotting scope and verified that in fact the people on the fishing vessel were signaling for help.
- The Captain of the Star Princess, Edward Perrin, decided to ignore the observations of the birdwatchers, and those of his own crewmember. He left the men stranded aboard the drifting fishing vessel and the Star Princess continued on its way towards Costa Rica. Perrin reportedly included in his ship’s log that he was “in contact” with the fishing vessel. This is apparently either a lie or an outright fabrication, because the “Fifty Cent” did not have any kind of radio. There were no other fishing vessels in the area at the time – the “Fifty Cent” was the only ship out there. If there were any other ships in the area, then THEY would have rescued the crew of the “Fifty Cent.” The three fishermen on the “Fifty Cent” were not signaling “avoid our fishing nets” but rather they were frantically signaling that they needed rescue. And, Captain Perrin apparently failed in his duties as a ship Captain, and did not immediately provide assistance, as required.
- It was later determined the three birdwatchers had observed a small Panamanian fiberglass fishing panga named the “Fifty Cent” that had – at that time – been adrift in the Pacific ocean for about two weeks. On the day of the sighting, 10 March 2012, all three of the Panamanian fishermen were still alive. The first person died sometime before dawn of the following day, on 11 March 2012. The second died five days later, on 16 March 2012. The third, Adrian Vasquez, survived and was eventually rescued. It is quite obvious Captain Edward Perrin could very well be held responsible for the deaths of those two men (one of them was 16 years old) as negligent homicide. They died as a result of Perrin’s negligence – his failure to act.
- As of right now I have four witnesses – the three birdwatchers on the Star Princess, and Adrian Vasquez, the surviving Panamanian fisherman, who has confirmed the story and his sighting of the Star Princess from the fishing panga.
- I need an official response from Carnival to this article;
- Panama Castaways Were Spotted By Cruise Ship Passengers - And Ignored By Ship's Captain
I will be appearing on local Panamanian television tomorrow morning, and would like to include your response as part of that appearance. Please expedite your handling of this issue. What message should I give the family members of the two fishermen who died, from Carnival? What do you plan to do about the actions of Captain Perrin?
No Response So Far: I don't know if Carnival is going to respond to my questions, or not. I'm still waiting.
Contacted The US Coast Guard: Judy Meredith from Bend, Oregon, one of the three birdwatchers who spotted the "Fifty Cent" from the decks of the Star Princess, sent an email to the US Coast Guard on the afternoon of 10 March 2012, after it became apparent that Captain Edward Perrin was not going to stop to help the Panamanian fishermen in distress. The text of the message she sent was included in the article published on Saturday. I called the headquarters of the 13th Coast Guard District as well as the Headquarters of the US Coast Guard Pacific Area in Alameda, California to follow up on the message Judy sent. I spoke with Judy again this morning, and she clarified that she had sent her message via one of those websites where you click "contact us" or "send us a message" - where you type in the text and off it goes - rather than sending it via email. She copied the text and sent it via email to herself, just to save a record of the message she sent. In any case, I sent the following request for information via email to the Headquarters of the US Coast Guard Pacific Region yesterday;
- As described in the article below and in the earlier telcon;
- I would like to know the following;
- 1. Did the USCG receive the email message sent by Judy Meredith on 10 March 2012?
- 2. What was done with that information?
- 3. Was there any attempt to relay the information provided to the search and rescue organizations of any other nation, possibly Costa Rica or Panama?
- 4. If so, how was that information transmitted?
- 5. To whom (specifically) was the information transmitted?
- 6. Please provide the name of the receiving organization, any phone numbers that might have been called, the names of the official who received the information, etc.
- Spirit and Intent: Judy Meredith did everything humanly possible to try to alert search and rescue authorities of the stranded Panamanian fishermen on 10 March 2012. The cruise ship captain should have stopped to render assistance. However lacking that, then hopefully the information passed to the USCG should have been coordinated with local SAR forces. It’s possible the information was received here locally, and that SAR forces responded with aircraft or vessels to conduct a search, with negative results. I want to close the loop on this aspect of the story and event.
Pushing The Story Out: I think this is a "big" and important story which deserves some attention. However as a relatively small and local "blogger" with a staff of exactly one (me), sometimes it's hard to get anyone's attention, to get them to take notice. I've run into this before, and now with many years of experience, I think I know how to get it done. It's not enough to just throw an article up on the website and hope for the best - I've had to get proactive.
Getting Exposure in Panama: Over the weekend I provided the raw video of my interview with Adrian Vasquez in Rio Hato last Friday to the channel 2 TVN television network. I've worked with the TVN journalists in many occasions in the past. For example I accompanied their evening news anchor Ivan Donoso to Bocas del Toro when they shot a special on the "Wild Bill" murders, and Magda Maxwell's piece on the hunt for Javier Martin was responsible for his capture in the Darien. TVN was already working on a special program scheduled to air tonight (Monday, 16 April 2012) on the risks assumed by Panamanian fishermen such as Adrian Vasquez. When they heard about this breaking story of the cruise ship captain who failed to render assistance to the Panamanian fishermen, they incorporated elements of this story into their special. And, I will be appearing on the TVN morning news broadcast tomorrow with Eduardo Lim Yueng and Castalia Pasqual. I know if the story gets picked up by all of the different Panamanian television stations and newspapers, then eventually both AP and Reuters will take notice. And then once it's on the "wire" everyone else around the world will cover it as well.
Exposure Via Facebook: Yesterday I posted a request via Facebook, asking my Friends to do whatever they could to help this story get some additional traction. Dozens of people clicked "like" or reposted the URL to their own pages. All of these actions helped to drive additional traffic and viewers to the article. I'm hoping the story will eventually get picked up by the "big boys" - meaning Reuters, AP, and the major news networks. Today I also spoke to my contacts at CBS.
Anette Quinn and Twitter: Yesterday afternoon as well I started blasting the link to my Panamanian friends and journalism colleagues via Twitter. Last night Annette Quinn who presents the weather on the TVN news broadcasts, picked up on the story and blasted it out to the 16,354 people (mostly Panamanians) who follow her. After that happened, another 2,000 people came to read the story just last night.
- Panama Castaways Were Spotted By Cruise Ship Passengers - And Ignored By Ship's Captain - 13 April 2012
Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.