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Teenager rescued after 28 days adrift at sea in small boat


Adrian Vasquez, left, an 18-year-old Panamanian who worked in a seaside resort hotel, receives medical attention aboard an Ecuadorean navy ship on Sunday.

Updated at 6:01 a.m. ET: A teen has apparently survived 28 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean after going on a fishing trip with two friends, according to reports. Adrian Vasquez, who was rescued by the Ecuadorean navy on Sunday, said he stayed alive by drinking rainwater and eating raw fish, the BBC reported.

Vasquez said neither of his friends survived, but that he had always held onto the hope he would be rescued.



Adrian Vasquez receives medical attention on Sunday.

The 18-year-old was found drifting alone near the Galapagos Islands on his friends' 10-foot fishing boat more than 600 miles from where they had set out.

He was first found by a commerical fishing vessel then handed over to Ecuador's coast guard. The trio had been missing since February 24.

The Associated Press reported the three were heading back to his home port of Rio Hato when the boat's motor failed.

Vasquez told the Ecuadorean navy crew he likely owed his survival to a sudden rainstorm that replenished his water supply.

The young Panamanian recounted his story to Hugo Espinosa, captain of the navy vessel, after being treated for malnutrition and severe dehydration. He recalled they had caught a lot of fish, and had a big jug of water.

The AP quoted Espinosa as saying Vasquez had identifed his dead friends as Oropeces Betancourt, 24, and Fernano Osorio, 16.

Arnulfo Franco / AP

Rescued castaway Adrian Vasquez is surrounded by family members upon his arrival to Tocumen international airport in Panama City on Tuesday.

Panamanian navy boats began to search for the vessel but did not find it. Espinosa said the ice melted and the fish rotted, leaving the trio to live off what they could catch with their net.

"The spirits of the survivors began to wane with the passing of days," Espinosa told The Associated Press.

The report said Betancourt stopped eating and drinking after two weeks and died on March 10. Three days later, his body began to decompose and Vasquez threw it over the side.


Adrian Vasquez, center, poses with Ecuadorean sailors onboard a navy ship on Monday.

Osorio died on March 15, also apparently of dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke. After three days, Vasquez pushed his other friend's body into the ocean, the AP said.

"When he was nearly dead, on March 19, it rained, and Vasquez was able to fill up with four gallons of water," said Espinosa. He spent the next five days eating raw fish before being spotted by commercial fishermen working on a skiff from a mother ship, the Duarte V.

'He was quiet'
Once aboard, Vasquez asked for a telephone so he could make two calls, the AP reported. The first was to his mother. The second was to the hotel manager to explain why he had missed so many days of work.

"He didn't know what was happening. He was quiet, looking lost," Espinosa said.

Vasquez was flown on Monday to Guayaquil on the Ecuadorean mainland before flying to Panama City on Tuesday where he was greeted by a crowd including family and friends.

The AP report said the teenager shed some tears as his relatives hugged him but he didn't talk to reporters.


The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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