MARSHALL ISLANDS – Some people are questioning the story of the fisherman who said he was lost at sea for more than a year before washing up on the Marshall Islands. But a Troutdale man who helped the castaway translate his tale said he believes him.
Jose Alvaregna, a fisherman from Mexico, said he survived through broken engines, the death of his only companion and even suicidal thoughts for 16 months while his drifted on his 24-foot fiberglass boat.
Alvaregna said he got by eating fish, birds and turtles, and drinking rainwater and urine.
Matt Riding, a Troutdale native who has been working as an anthropologist in the Marshall Islands for two years, helped Alvaregna translate his story for the media.
“He was just saying, ‘Thank God, thank God, thank God,’ over and over again,” Riding said.
The area where Alvaregna washed up doesn’t have a lot of Spanish speakers and Riding happened to be around to translate the castaway’s tale.
Although some are questioning Alvaregna’s story, Riding said he has no reason not to believe the man.
“He was pretty out of it. He couldn’t remember his birthday, he couldn’t remember a lot of information and he was contradicting a lot of things. I mean, imagine," Riding said. “He hadn’t talked to anybody. He said he hadn’t talked to anybody but God and himself."
But not everybody believes Alvaregna’s story.
“He’s talked about join pain a couple of times, I know he’d like a haircut, but he looks very good, he’s sharp,” said Thomas Hart, US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands. “I’m certainly no medical professional, but I think he’s in much better shape than one would expect after such an ordeal.”