José Salvador Alvarenga spent more than one year adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The castaway survived the harrowing journey and was found alive on January 30, 2014. However, he is now being accused of cannibalism. Although Alvarenga denies the accusations, the family of 22-year-old Ezequiel Cordoba is suing him for $1 million.
In November 2012, Salvador hired Cordoba to accompany him on a two-day fishing trip. The two men were reported missing when they failed to return to the Costa Azul, Mexico, port as planned.
Jaime Marroquín, an official with the Chiapas rescue service, said crews searched for the missing men for two days. Unfortunately, their efforts were impeded by inclement weather. As the men and their boat were never found, José Salvador Alvarenga and Ezequiel Cordoba were presumed to be dead. Nearly 14 months later, Alvarenga washed ashore on the Marshall Islands.
Although he was weak and suffering from dehydration, Salvador was not fatally injured or ill. Authorities were stunned that the 37-year-old man survived nearly 14 months on a 25-foot fibreglass fishing boat with few resources.
In an interview with the Guardian, Salvador Alvarenga revealed the fishing boat was stocked with many resources, including clean drinking water, extra gasoline, freshly caught fish, a ship-to-shore radio, and a GPS device. Unfortunately, the items were of little use.
The gasoline simply added unnecessary weight to the boat, as the motor eventually stopped working. The GPS and ship-to-shore radio also stopped working, as they became waterlogged during a storm.
Struck with heavy storms and exceptionally strong waves, the small boat began to take on water. In an attempt to lighten the load, Alvarenga and Cordoba were forced to dump the fish, gasoline, ice, and water.
Castaway lost at sea for 14 months is accused of eating his colleague to survive: suit https://t.co/o5PvyAlILv pic.twitter.com/DnZY5rvMfm
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 16, 2015
Although they eventually bailed out a majority of the water, the men were left with even fewer resources. With no fishing supplies, they were forced to catch birds, fish, and turtles with their hands. When it did not rain, the men were forced to drink their own urine.
After drifting at sea for two months, Ezequiel fell ill. According to Salvador, the younger man's mental health had begun to decline and he simply refused to eat. Days later, the 22-year-old man was dead. The older man said he "cried for hours."
Alvarenga said he kept his companion's corpse on the boat for six days. However, he was eventually forced to put the body in the ocean.
"First I washed his feet. His clothes were useful, so I stripped off a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt. I put that on – it was red, with little skull-and-crossbones – and then I dumped him in. And as I slid him into the water, I fainted."
José Salvador Alvarenga said he blamed himself for Ezequiel Cordoba's death because he invited him on the trip. However, he never harmed the young man or cannibalized his corpse.
Castaway Accused of Eating Crewmate https://t.co/ZvNxNtgN4j pic.twitter.com/xkHNUgCrR0
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 15, 2015
In a February 2014 interview, which was published by Yahoo News, Cordoba's mother, Roselia Diaz Cueto, said she did not hold Alvarenga responsible for her son's death.
"I want it understood that I am not blaming this person, Alvarenga, nor am I declaring him guilty of anything."
However, she and her family have now filed a $1 million lawsuit, claiming the castaway ate his companion as a means of survival.
As reported by People, the lawsuit was filed one day after Alvarenga published his memoir.
Attorney El Diario de Hoy suggests Ezequiel Cordoba's family is simply trying to capitalize on the proceeds of the sale of the book. In the same interview, attorney de Hoy confirmed José Salvador Alvarenga is also being sued by his former attorney, Benedicto Perlera for breach of contract. Perlera is also seeking $1 million in damages.
[Photo by Marshall Island Journal/AP]