Castaway survives 15 months at sea, gets sued for $1mn over 'eating' his crewmate

Castaway fisherman Jose Salvador Alvarenga. © Jose Cabezas
A fisherman from El Salvador who was lost at sea for 438 days but miraculously survived is being sued for $1 million by the family of his dead crewmate, who accuse him of eating their son’s remains in order not to starve to death.

Salvador Alvarenga, 36, is the only man in the world to have survived so long stranded at sea, but he might now have to pay $1 million to the family of Ezequiel Cordoba - the man who accompanied him on his shark fishing trip in November 2012.

A storm destroyed the communication system of their vessel, washed their supplies overboard and pushed the boat far out to sea. The two men had to catch birds and fish to eat, and were forced to drink tortoise blood and urine.

This turned out to be a much more difficult ordeal for Cordoba, 22, whose stomach didn’t agree with the food. He hallucinated and tried to throw himself overboard several times.

One of the birds they ate was poisoned, Alvarenga said. He consumed raw meat to induce vomiting and stayed alive, while Cordoba refused to do so and died, asking Alvarenga not to eat his corpse and tell his mother what happened.

Alvarenga kept the body of his deceased companion for six days, chatting with it as he was afraid to stay alone. However, he soon started to doubt his sanity and says he got rid of the corpse.

He denies eating the body, his current lawyer, Ricardo Cucalon, said to El Salvador newspaper El Diario de Hoy.

Alvarenga was eventually found at the Marshall Islands, having drifted 5,500 miles (around 9,000 km).

Now Cordoba’s family has filed a $1 million lawsuit, saying that their son fell victim to cannibalism.

This is not the first legal action against Alvarenga. In January his previous lawyer, Benedicto Perlera, also began a $1 million lawsuit after his client allegedly breached their contract and left him for a US-based law firm.

Alvarenga has shared his experience with writer Jonathan Franklin, who has made a book out of the story titled 438 Days, which was published in October.

“I believe that this demand is part of the pressure from this family to divide the proceeds of royalties,” Ricardo Cucalon said.

In April Cordoba’s family demanded fifty percent of the money Alvarenga would make from sales of the book. However, 438 Days didn’t do well in the US, with only 1,500 copies sold.