A Colombian fisherman has been reunited with his wife and family after spending two months adrift in the Pacific Ocean, an ordeal that he says left his three shipmates dead.
A merchant ship rescued the man more than 2,000 miles southeast of Hawaii, and he was brought to Honolulu in good condition Wednesday.
The four sailors left Colombia more than two months ago, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
They had been fishing near the protected marine sanctuary of Malpelo Island, off the coast of Colombia, the Colombian navy’s press office said. But their skiff’s engine failed, leaving them adrift in a lightly traveled expanse of the ocean.
The man said his three companions, who were from Ecuador, died at sea. However, their bodies were not aboard the skiff, and it was unclear how they died. The man did, however, have their passports.
The survivor ate fish and seagulls to stay alive, the Coast Guard said. The Colombian navy’s press office Thursday identified him as Javier Eduardo Olaya, 29.
A navy official said the men’s 23-foot vessel was never reported lost. The skiff was also never registered at a Colombian port as required.
Olaya told a Coast Guard interpreter in Honolulu, where he was brought ashore, that it felt good to be back on land.
“He thanks the people that picked him up, for rescuing him,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Simey Luevano, who interpreted for Olaya during a short interview filmed by the Coast Guard. “And he feels very bad for what happened to his friends that he was on board with. He would have loved it if his friends from the boat would have been here with him.”
The merchant ship spotted the skiff in late April. The crew of the Nikkei Verde picked up Olaya and brought him near Honolulu. The 600-foot carrier then transferred him to a Coast Guard boat, which brought him to shore Wednesday.
Colombia’s consulate in San Francisco helped the man and paid for his return home. He’s now with his wife and family.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said the Coast Guard wasn’t investigating the case because it falls outside its purview.