A fisherman who miraculously survived 438 days lost at sea has been sued for $1 million for allegedly eating his fellow castaway to ensure his own survival, the family of the deceased castaway contends, according to The Telegraph and other media outlets.
After drifting 6,700 miles, Salvador Alvarenga, 36, of El Salvador washed ashore in January 2014 on the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after setting off on a two-day fishing trip from Mexico in November 2012. It was the longest any castaway had survived at sea.
Alvarenga had paid 22-year-old Ezequiel Cordoba $50 to accompany him.
When a storm hit, Alvarenga radioed the owner of the 25-foot boat demanding to be rescued. That message was the last words communicated to shore as 10-foot waves and the vicious storm knocked out the communications system and washed their supplies overboard.
Alvarenga and Cordoba survived several months by catching fish and birds, and drinking turtle blood and rainwater, but one bird they ate made Cordoba very ill. A poisonous snake was discovered in the bird’s stomach.
According to Alvarenga's account, Cordoba refused to eat some of the raw meats that kept Alvarenga alive — perhaps because of the experience with the bird — and he eventually died.
Before starving to death, Cordoba made Alvarenga promise to not eat his corpse and to find his mother and tell her what happened.
Mr Alvarenga befriended the corpse, keeping it on the boat for six days and chatting to it, until he realized his own insanity and threw it overboard.
"I could see my death was going to be very, very slow," he said.
But against all odds, he survived. Mr Alvarenga washed up in the Marshall Islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in January 2014. Dazed and emaciated, he was found by a couple living on the island who took him in.
Two months later, Alvarenga visited Cordoba's mother, Rosalia Rios, and delivered her son's message. Alvarenga has always denied eating his crewmate.
The family's lawsuit comes on the heels of the October release of Alvarenga's book 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea.
Ricardo Cucalon, Alvarenga's attorney, told The Telegraph he believes the lawsuit is part of the family's attempt at pressuring Alvarenga to divide the royalties.
Cucalon told The Telegraph that the book has done poorly in the U.S. with only 1,500 copies sold.
"Many believe the book is making my client a rich man, but what he will earn is much less than people think," Cucalon said.
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