Chiapas, Mexico: The family of a man believed to have died during Jose Salvador Alvarenga's epic voyage across the Pacific have asked that the sea survivor be returned to Mexico to answer their questions.
Mr Alvarenga washed up in the Marshall Islands last week claiming to have drifted 12,500 kilometres from Mexico for more than a year, surviving by drinking the blood of turtles and seabirds.
While recovering there, he said he had a companion called "Ezequiel" who had died after about a month from refusing to eat.
Jose Salvador Alvarenga says he survived 13 months adrift in the Pacific. Photo: AFP
According to the civil defence office in Chiapas, Mexico, a small fishing boat carrying two men named Cirilo Vargas and Ezequiel Cordoba disappeared on November 17, 2012. Mr Alvarenga's parents, who live in El Salvador, have said he was known there as "Cirilo".
In a remote spot up the coast from the Mexican fishing hamlet of Costa Azul, Britain's Daily Telegraph found the family of fisherman Ezequiel Cordoba, 22, who they said had been missing since that day.
The family had just heard him named as Mr Alvarenga's dead companion in a television report but had received no official confirmation.
The former boss of Salvadorean castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga, Bellarmino Rodriguez Solis. Photo: AFP
Through tears, his grandmother Dominga Mendoza said: "I always had hope that we'd see him again one day, that he'd come home. I feel so sad. But until we heard his name on the news, I had hope. I ask God to look after him."
Both Mr Alvarenga, 37, who was known locally by the nickname La Chancha (the pig), and Mr Cordoba, known as Pinata, disappeared in a storm that still weighs heavily on the local community. Three boats with six fishermen on board were lost. All had been presumed dead. That leaves open the possibility that Mr Cordoba was on one of the other boats.
However, Jorge Cisneros, 51, a fisherman who survived the storm, said. "There was a boy on the boat with La Chancha. We didn't know him well because he had just started fishing, but we called him Pinata."
Fishermen clean their fishing net in the hometown of sea survivor Jose Salvador Alvarenga. Photo: AP
The Cordoba family knew Mr Alvarenga only vaguely and said Ezequiel began fishing two months before he disappeared.
Speaking at their modest home, his brother Romeo Cordoba, 29, also a fisherman, said: "We ask the authorities to bring the shipwrecked man, La Chancha, back here or take some of us to meet him, so we can find out was it really our brother who he is talking about. If it is, why did he die? Why wouldn't he eat raw fish and birds? What did he do with his body? There is a lot of confusion and we want to hear it from La Chancha.
"We looked for him [Ezequiel] at sea for two months. Whenever we had enough money for petrol for the boat, we went out, as far as 100 kilometres, but we never found him.
"It's a miracle that La Chancha survived at sea for 14 months, and we feel no anger towards him. We understand this was an accident and how dangerous the sea can be. But we need confirmation from him before we can accept his death. We talk about Pinata all the time, and without a body to bury it is very hard for our family."
According to local fishermen, Mr Alvarenga led a simple life sleeping in a hammock in a palm hut by the sea that has since blown down.
Doubts have been expressed about his astonishing tale of survival. But Bellarmino Rodriguez Solis, 64, who said he owned the boat beached in the Marshall Islands, showed the Telegraph one of his other boats in Costa Azul. It had the same name Camaroneros de la Costa, and a very similar number, written on the side.
The Telegraph also obtained images of notes Mr Alvarenga wrote to those who discovered him on the remote Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands. On one sheet of paper, he had scrawled: "My friend, last night the sea took me out. I was lost."