Francois was lost at sea for over three weeks before he was spotted by a plane flying over. When he used a mirror to signal the plane he knew it had worked when it flew over him twice


Sailor called Elvis lives off ketchup for 24 days while lost at sea off Colombia before being rescued when he scrawled ‘help’ on his hull and directed sunlight from a mirror to alert a passing plane

  • A 47 year-old has been rescued from being adrift for 24 days in a sail boat
  • After surviving off minimal food he was spotted by a passing plane
  • He was rescued by the navy in Colombian waters over 100 miles from the coast

A man from the Caribbean island of Dominica says he survived 24 days lost at sea in a sailboat by eating ketchup before being rescued in Colombian waters.

Elvis Francois, 47, had the word ‘help’ carved on the hull of his sail boat when he was found 120 nautical miles northwest off of the Colombian coast. Francois said he saw other boats pass by and tried to flag them down, even lighting a fire on his vessel, but they did not see him. 

It was only when a passing plane saw the reflection of his mirror and called the navy that Francois was able to be rescued. 

Francois was lost at sea for over three weeks before he was spotted by a plane flying over. When he used a mirror to signal the plane he knew it had worked when it flew over him twice

Francois was lost at sea for over three weeks before he was spotted by a plane flying over. When he used a mirror to signal the plane he knew it had worked when it flew over him twice

Elvis was swept out to sea whilst repairing a sailboat on the island of S

Elvis was swept out to sea whilst repairing a sailboat on the island of St Maarten. After 24 days at sea he was finally seen by a plane who alerted the navy. Francois has received medical attention and has been handed over to Colombian immigration to return home.

‘The final days, about the 15th of January, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals,’ he said, describing how he angled the glass to catch the glare of the sun and draw attention. 

‘I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat, garlic powder and (bouillon cubes) Maggi. So I mixed it up with some water for me to survive 24 days in the sea,’ Elvis Francois, 47, said in English in a video released by the Colombian Navy.

‘The final days, about the 15th of January, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals,’ he said, describing how he angled the glass to catch the glare of the sun and draw attention.

‘They passed over the boat twice so I realized they saw me,’ he continued. ‘I am grateful for being alive today because of them.’

The nearby merchant vessel assisted the navy in rescuing Franco from being stranded at sea for 24 days

The nearby merchant vessel assisted the navy in rescuing Franco from being stranded at sea for 24 days

The Colombian navy treated Francois for his more serious ailments such as dehydration and malnutrition whilst escorting the islander back to a safe port

The Colombian navy treated Francois for his more serious ailments such as dehydration and malnutrition whilst escorting the islander back to a safe port

 The aircraft crew informed the Navy, who then rescued Francois with the help of a merchant ship which escorted them to the nearby port city of Cartagena.

Francois added: ’24 days, no land. Nobody to talk to. Don’t know what to do. Don’t know where you are. It was rough. A certain time I lose hope. I think about my family.’

‘It was very rough. I don’t know how I am alive today but I am alive. And I am grateful for that,’ Francois said.

He was working to repair a sailboat off a harbor on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles in December last year when the weather turned foul and he was swept out to sea, the Navy said.

‘Without having any knowledge of navigation he was lost and disoriented at sea. His efforts to maneuver the vessel and the equipment on board were to no avail,’ the statement added.

He was handed over to the immigration authorities to coordinate his return to his country.

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