24 DAYS IN HELL: Sailor who survived on ketchup for weeks and scribbled ‘HELP’ on boat rescued from sea
GUAJIRA PENINSULA, COLOMBIA: Colombian navy rescued a Dominican sailor who reportedly survived by eating ketchup, garlic powder, and seasoning cubes 24 days adrift in the Caribbean on a sailboat. Elvis Francois, 47, a native of the Caribbean island of Dominica, said that he was making repairs to his boat close to St Martin in the Netherlands Antilles when strong weather forced him out to sea in December 2022. According to a statement released by the Colombian navy, the sailboat was discovered from the air 120 nautical miles northwest of the Guajira peninsula on Wednesday, January 18, and Francois was transported to the port city of Cartagena in a passing cargo ship.
According to the navy, he had scribbled "help" on the boat's hull, which was discovered by an aircraft. In a video released by the navy and obtained by NBC, the sailor claimed that he was cut off from the shore for 24 days before being rescued in the Caribbean Sea and that he even tried to contact his friends but couldn't because he lost signal. “I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait,” Francois recalled in a video released by the navy. As for food, “I have no food. It’s just a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat. Garlic powder, and Maggi,” he said, referring to a seasoning. “So, I mixed it up with some water,” he further added.
Carlos Urbano Montes told Associated Press, Francois claimed to have used a cloth to collect rainfall. Even though François reported to have dropped weight, he was confirmed to be in good health.
Francois claimed on the videotape that he had to continuously drain water from the boat to prevent it from sinking. He even attempted to start a fire to signal for help but went in vain. Finally, he flashed a mirror signal as a jet flew by. He claimed to have been noticed when the jet passed by again, according to the navy. “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,” Francois said.
The merchant ship picked up Francois and left the sailboat at sea, according to Urbano Montes. The navy reported that after receiving a medical examination on land, François was then turned over to immigration officials so he could travel back to Dominica.