Colombian fisherman reunited with family after weeks adrift

HONOLULU (AP) — 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 May 4.

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 on May 5 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.

The merchant ship spotted the skiff in late April. The crew of Nikkei Verde picked Olaya up and brought him near Honolulu. The 600-foot bulk carrier then transferred him to a small Coast Guard boat, which brought him to shore May 4.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said the Coast Guard wasn’t investigating the case because it falls outside its purview.

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