Jose Salvador Alvarenga's survival story gets backing from Mexico rescue official

A castaway from Mexico who identified himself as Jose Salvador Alvarenga steps off the "Lomor" Sea Patrol vessel in Majuro, Marshall Islands after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll, Feb. 3, 2014. Getty

Jose Salvador Alvarenga's epic survival story may not be too good to be true after all. Maybe.

The fisherman showed up several days ago on the remote Pacific atoll of Ebon, claiming to have drifted across more than 6,000 miles of open water -- surviving on seabirds and fish -- for more than a year after leaving Mexico’s west coast on a shark fishing trip.

He told his rescuers he left Mexico with another fisherman, a teenage boy he knew only as Ezekiel. According to Alvarenga, 37, the boy died after about a month at sea.

Alvarenga was brought by boat to the Marshall Islands, where officials from various nations have been trying to verify his harrowing account.  

On Tuesday, a rescue official in Chiapas, Mexico confirmed to CBS News that a boat carrying two fishermen was declared missing two days after setting off on November 17, 2012. 

A castaway from Mexico who identified himself as Jose Salvador Alvarenga walks with the help of a Majuro Hospital nurse in Majuro
A castaway from Mexico who identified himself as Jose Salvador Alvarenga walks with the help of a nurse in Majuro, Marshall Islands, Feb. 3, 2014.
Getty
 Jaime Marroquin, a supervisor with the State Civil Protection services for Chiapas, told CBS News the search for the missing fishermen was called off after two days due to bad weather and heavy fog in the area.

The alert was initially raised over the missing fishermen -- identified in the official record of the incident as Cirilo Vargas and Ezekiel Cordova, both 38 -- by the local fishing cooperative to which they belonged. The cooperative told authorities the men had failed to return from their fishing trip as planned.

Marroquin could not clarify the discrepancies in the missing men’s personal details, but records in Mexico are often filed with such mistakes.

The rescuer said that upon hearing Alvarenga had turned up in the Marshall Islands, he felt "pure joy that they're alive.”

Marroquin explained that fishermen from the area normally venture 80 or 85 miles out to sea to fish, so when their boat couldn't be found he was confident they would be picked up by a larger vessel as it drifted through the shipping channels in the region.

As for the survival story, Marroquin, who also works as a paramedic in Chiapas, was pleased but not shocked.

"Everyone decides how he's going to fight," he said.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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