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Sunday 22 April 2018

Fisherman rescued after being stranded at sea for two months

Javier Eduardo Olaya, right, is helped on to a coast guard boat (US Coast Guard/AP)
Javier Eduardo Olaya, right, is helped on to a coast guard boat (US Coast Guard/AP)

A Colombian fisherman who was lost at sea for more than two months has said he is grateful to God for his life and thanked those who rescued him.

The Colombian navy's press office identified the survivor as Javier Eduardo Olaya. He and his three shipmates - who were from Ecuador - had been fishing near the protected marine sanctuary of Malpelo Island, off the coast of Colombia, the press office said.

The 29-year-old told a US Coast Guard interpreter in Honolulu that it felt good to be back on land.

"He thanks the people that picked him up, for rescuing him. He says again he's very thankful to God," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Simey Luevano, who interpreted for Mr Olaya during a short interview filmed by the Coast Guard. "And the hope that his faith gave him and his mother.

Mr Olaya said he survived the ordeal by eating fish and seagulls, the Coast Guard said.

He said his three companions died at sea but their bodies were not aboard the vessel that was adrift in a lightly travelled expanse of the ocean. He did have the men's passports.

A Colombian navy official said the fishermen's 23ft vessel was never reported lost. The skiff was also never registered at a Colombian port as required.

A merchant ship spotted the skiff more than 2,000 miles south east of Hilo, Hawaii, in late April. The crew of the Nikkei Verde picked Mr Olaya up, and the 600ft bulk carrier transferred him to a small Coast Guard boat, which took him to shore on Wednesday.

Coast Guard video shows Mr Olaya dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans, a baseball cap and a life vest as he gingerly climbed down a ladder to the Coast Guard vessel.

The four sailors left Colombia more than two months ago, the Coast Guard said. At some point, their skiff's engine failed and they were left adrift.

Colombia's consulate in San Francisco helped the man and paid for his return home, where he is with his wife and family.

Press Association

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