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Pacific ordeal teenager back home

A Panamanian teenager who survived 28 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean has arrived home.

Dozens of people welcomed a thin Adrian Vasquez at Panama City's airport. The 18-year-old shed some tears as his relatives hugged him.

Mr Vasquez did not talk to reporters, and his parents whisked him to a waiting car which took him to his home town of Rio Hato.

The teenager and two friends left on a fishing trip on February 24 and were heading back to Rio Hato when the boat's motor failed. His two friends died within three weeks, but Mr Vasquez was rescued on Friday by Ecuadorean fishermen who stumbled across his boat off the Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles from where the trio had set out to fish.

He told Ecuadorean authorities he owed his survival to a sudden rainstorm that replenished his water supply.

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. The captain said the young Panamanian recounted his story after recovering over the weekend from malnutrition and severe dehydration.

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.

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.


From Belfast Telegraph