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Sailor Survives Eight Days in Raft, Authorities Say

February 19, 1988

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A 21-year-old sailor whose cargo boat overturned in the Caribbean Sea survived eight days floating on a raft with shipmates who suffered a ″psychosis″ and bit him, authorities said.

The sailor’s eight shipmates died.

Authorities said an unidentified West German vessel brought the sailor, Jorge Eliezer Torres Mejias, to Puerto Rico Wednesday after rescuing him earlier this week.

Torres Mejias was released Thursday from Puerto Rico’s Medical Center and was turned over to Teresa Berardinelli, Colombia’s consular officer in Puerto Rico.

Torres Mejias was not available for an interview, despite several attempts to reach him at the Colombian diplomatic office in San Juan.

Details of what happened tothe sailor are sketchy. The U.S. Coast Guard office in San Juan could only confirm that Torres Mejias had been brought to Puerto Rico and had received medical attention.

Dr. Carlos Gomez Marcial, medical director at the Puerto Rico Medical Center, said Torres Mejias told him that he and the eight others left Barranquilla, Colombia, for another coastal town carrying a load of food on a cargo vessel, the Marlon David. The craft overturned about 10 miles offshore and the nine boarded a raft.

Gomez Marcial said ″apparently his eight friends suffered a general psychosis and they started to bite him.″ He quoted the young man as saying some threw themselves into the ocean and drowned. Others died aboard the raft and he had to push the bodies overboard.

The German ship spotted him at sea and rescued him.

Torres Mejias suffered bite wounds on his arm and right hand, according to the doctor. He also suffered from dehydration and severe sunburn.

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