- Flavio Barceló, a Venezuelan fisherman, managed to swim to shore after 15 hours in the ocean following a suspected whale strike.
- Barceló’s two crewmates, Eriberto Holguín Rivera and Jhon Palma López, sadly did not survive.
- The incident underscores the dangers faced by those at sea, with vessel strikes with whales not uncommon in these waters.
Flavio Barceló, a Venezuelan fisherman, lived to recount a harrowing ordeal at sea after a suspected whale strike tossed him and his crewmates overboard off the Ecuadorian coast.
Barceló, against all odds, swam for an astonishing 15 hours to reach land.
However, this remarkable story of survival was marred by tragedy as his two fellow fishermen, Eriberto Holguín Rivera and Jhon Palma López, tragically lost their lives to the sea.
“That night my partner, who knew him as Silo (Heriberto), told me that as I was going ahead I should be on the lookout for a whale or boat,” Barceló narrated to local media outlet Extra.
“We were advancing and I told him: ‘Watch out for a whale.’ But it was too late. We hit [the whale] and fell into the water.”
This fatal incident occurred around 11 p.m., leaving the fishermen stranded as their boat motored off unmanned.
The trio attempted to swim towards the city of Manta, hoping for rescue.
“At four in the morning, Jhon Palma drowned, he could not resist,” Carmen Rivera, a relative of Eriberto Rivera, shared sorrowfully.
By 8 a.m., Rivera himself was unable to continue.
Marine scientists have yet to identify the whale species involved in this mishap.
However, the humpback whale is a frequent sight in the San Mateo waters this time of year, known for its long migratory patterns, which can span up to 5,000 miles.
Such collisions between vessels and whales are not rare.
A study published in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal in 2021 indicates humpback whales as the most commonly hit species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
The consequences of such encounters can be devastating for both parties.
Following his arduous 15-hour swim, Barceló reached San Lorenzo parish’s harbor at 4 p.m. local time on July 5, and was quickly taken to a health center for treatment.
Doctors found his lungs filled with water and phlegm.
“Thank God for giving me another life, I was born again,” Barceló expressed with gratitude.
Meanwhile, the grieving families of Rivera and Palma are urging the Ecuadorian navy to assist in recovering the bodies of their loved ones.