An 18-year-old who worked in a seaside hotel in Panama happily took up an offer by two friends to join them on a fishing trip and earn some extra cash.
Twenty-eight days later, Adrian Vasquez was found drifting alone in the 10ft fishing boat. He was in the waters off Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles from where the trio had set out to fish.
His two friends had died, and he owed his survival to a sudden rainstorm, the Ecuadorean coastguard captain who helped nurse him back to health said.
Mr Vasquez was flown to Guayaquil on the Ecuadorean mainland to be turned over to the Panamanian consul.
Captain Hugo Espinosa’s patrol boat picked up Mr Vasquez early on Sunday from commercial fishermen who had stumbled across the Panamanian drifting in the Pacific on Friday.
The captain said the young Panamanian recounted his story after recovering over the weekend from malnutrition and severe dehydration:
He and his friends were returning to Rio Hato, Panama, where he worked at the Decameron Hotel, on February 24 aboard the Fifty Cents boat when its motor failed.
In the first few days, as Panama’s coastguard began to search for the young men, the trio grilled fish on the boat. But then their ice melted and the fish rotted. They had to toss them overboard and live off what they could catch with their net.
“The spirits of the survivors began to wane with the passing of days,” Capt Espinosa said.
Oropeces Betancourt, the oldest at 24, stopped eating and drinking after two weeks, and died on March 10. Three days later, his body began to decompose and Mr Vasquez threw it over the side.
The other youth, 16-year-old Fernando Osorio, died on March 15, also apparently of dehydration, sunburn and heatstroke. After three days, Mr Vasquez pushed his other friend’s body into the ocean.
Mr Vasquez then ran out of water and the days were all sunny.
“When he was nearly dead, on March 19, it rained, and Vasquez was able to fill up with four gallons of water,” said Capt Espinosa.
He spent the next five days eating raw fish, before he was spotted by commercial fisherman working on a skiff from a mother ship, the Duarte V.
Once aboard, Mr Vasquez asked for a telephone so he could make two calls. The first was to his mother, and the second to the hotel manager to explain why he had missed so many days of work.