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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
By Associated Press Reporters

Colombian Navy rescues sailor adrift in Caribbean for 24 days

Castaway Elvis Francois is attended by Colombian Navy members after he was rescued near the department of La Guajira, in the extreme north of Colombia (Colombian Navy press office via AP/PA)

The Colombian Navy rescued a man from Dominica who says he survived 24 days adrift in the Caribbean on a sailing boat by eating ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes.

Elvis Francois, 47, had scrawled the word “help” in English on the boat’s hull, which officials said was key to his rescue.

The boat in which Mr Francois was adrift was spotted from the air 120 nautical miles north west of La Guajira peninsula and then escorted to the port city of Cartagena with the help of a passing container ship, the Colombian Navy said in a statement.

There was nothing else to do but sit and waitElvis Francois

Mr Francois told Colombian authorities that his ordeal began in December when currents swept the boat out to sea while he was making repairs off the island of St Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.

“I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait,” Mr Francois recalled in a video released by the Navy.

He said he subsisted on a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes.

Mr Francois said he had to constantly remove water from the boat to prevent it from sinking. He also tried to light a fire to send a distress signal without success.

Finally, a plane passed by and he signalled with a mirror. He said the Navy told him that he was spotted when the plane passed again.

“At some point I lost hope and thought about my family, but I thank the coast guard. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be telling the story,” Mr Francois said.

The Navy said Francois was in good health when he was rescued. After receiving a medical check on shore, he was handed over to immigration authorities for his return home to Dominica.

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