Skip to main content

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

From Nick Parker, CNN
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 1725 GMT (0125 HKT)
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
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
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.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
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.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
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