Castaway 'pushed' dead companion into sea

2014-02-04 09:02
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Majuro - A castaway who says he survived 13 months adrift in the Pacific said Tuesday he thought about suicide but was sustained by dreams of eating his favourite food - tortillas - and reuniting with his family.

Fisherman Jose Salvador Alvarenga said his strong religious faith helped as he drifted some 12 500km from Mexico to the Marshall Islands, and described being forced to dump the body of his teenage companion overboard when he starved to death.

"I didn't want to die of starvation," he told AFP through a Spanish interpreter at Majuro Hospital, where he is recuperating after being found disoriented last Thursday at a remote coral atoll.

"There were times I would think about killing myself. But I was scared to do it," he added, raising his arm, pointing to heaven and declaring: "God! Faith!"

Alvarenga said he would dream of eating all his favourite foods.

"But then I woke up and all I see is the sun, sky and the sea," he said. "My dream for over a year is to eat a tortilla, chicken and so many other types of food.

"I would imagine and dream a lot about my family - my mother and my father," he said. Alvarenga said he was not married but has a daughter named Fatima who he was anxious to see again.

His parents feared he had been killed.

"Thank God he is alive. We are overjoyed... I just want him here with us," his mother Maria Julia Alvarenga told CNN in his homeland El Salvador, whose government says it is working with Mexico to bring him home.

Pushed body overboard

Alvarenga said he set out on a shark fishing expedition in late December 2012 with a teenager named Xiguel, when they became lost in their 7m fibreglass boat.

The 37-year-old's mood darkened as he described how the boy, who he says was aged 15-18, died four months into their voyage, unable to survive on a diet of raw bird flesh, turtle blood and his own urine.

"He couldn't keep the raw food down and he kept vomiting," Alvarenga said. "I tried to get him to hold his nose and eat but he kept vomiting."

He said the teenager died of starvation and he pushed his body into the ocean. "What else could I do?"

Alvarenga said he tried to keep track of time as the sun moved across the sky but weeks and months eventually blurred.

Every so often he would hear something bump the side of the boat. Invariably it was a sea turtle.

"I was able to reach over the side of the boat and grab them," he said. "I caught many turtles over the course of my drift," he said.

Drank own urine

Starting out the trip with fishing gear, he also caught fish.

"The hardest thing I had to do to survive was to drink my own urine," he said.

This was during a period when "for three months it didn't rain". When it did, he used the hull of his boat to store water.

Alvarenga described his joy at finally making landfall at Ebon Atoll after so long at sea, saying he spotted a house and crawled up the beach towards it.

"I went towards it and began yelling for help," he said. Two Marshallese came out and helped the stranger, who was clad only in a ragged pair of underpants, by giving him coconut juice.

The stockily built Alvarenga looked in remarkably good physical shape when he arrived in the Marshalls capital Majuro five days later aboard a police patrol boat.

Sporting a bushy beard and with his hair bleached a ginger colour by the sun, he was helped down the gangplank by a male nurse but he did not appear to have chapped lips, blistered skin or other signs of severe exposure.

"He looked better than one would expect," US ambassador Thomas Armbruster said on Monday after acting as an interpreter for the Marshallese authorities.

However, extraordinary feats of survival are not uncommon in the Pacific. Three Mexicans washed up in the Marshalls in 2006 after nine months adrift.

In Majuro, foreign ministry officials said Manila-based ambassador Julio Camarena, who represents Mexico to the Marshall Islands, has offered to pay for Alvarenga's ticket back to Mexico.

NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Beauty
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.