Skip to main content

For missing man's mother, castaway's survival story is tale of grief

From Nick Parker, CNN
updated 12:25 PM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jose Salvador Alvarenga's survival at sea has drawn global attention
  • The castaway's companion, Ezequiel Cordova, is presumed dead
  • Cordova's mother calls the news a "devastating blow" and demands answers

El Fortin, Mexico (CNN) -- Roselia Rios cried as cameras rolled and headlines trumpeted a castaway's survival after more than a year adrift.

The dramatic rescue in the Marshall Islands brought heartbreaking news for Rios: Jose Salvador Alvarenga had survived, but her son, who was with him, had perished at sea.

"For me, it was a devastating blow," she told CNN last week. "The pain is so great I can't explain it. I wouldn't wish this on anybody. Losing a child is the hardest thing to bear in life."

Her son, 23-year-old Ezequiel Cordova, set sail from Mexico with Alvarenga in late 2012. Both men were members of a small fishing cooperative and had planned to spend a day catching sharks.

Castaway finally heads home
New details in castaway's story
'Castaway' released from the hospital

But something went terribly wrong. Winds blew them off course, a storm raged and their engines failed, Alvarenga told authorities.

Four weeks into their drift, according to Alvarenga, Cordova died of starvation because he refused to eat raw birds and turtles. Eventually, he said, he threw the body overboard.

"What else could I do?" Alvarenga said.

Now, as Alvarenga begins his journey home to El Salvador, Rios is grieving her son's death, more than a year after he went missing.

His bedroom in the family's home in the village of El Fortin, Mexico, remains exactly as he left it -- a simple green plaid blanket draped over the bed.

Jovani Cordova says his brother was kind and worked hard to help their family.

"He was responsible for my mother. In fact, he worked in the sea because of her," he said. "He wanted to improve himself. He didn't want to be poor like us."

The road in the rural community is so bad it's easier to travel by boat. A short ride took Cordova to where he worked, the nearby town of Costa Azul.

Members of the cooperative, where fishermen make an average of $150 a week, still remember the frantic search to find him and Alvarenga after their boat went missing.

"My colleagues went to fish, and the next day they told me by radio that the engine failed and the GPS device was wet. We went to search for them for seven or eight days with the authorities," said Bellarmino Rodrigues, who owned the boat. "The governor gave us a small aircraft, but it was impossible to find them."

Back at the family home, Rios told CNN she was focused on one thing.

"As a mother, I demand that the authorities allow me to talk to the survivor," she said last week. "Only in that way will I know what happened and what he did with the body of my son. I deserve the truth."

READ: Five things about the castaway's tale

READ: Castaway begins his journey home from Marshall Islands

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 8:27 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT