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Salvadoran sea survivor passes polygraph: lawyer

SAN SALVADOR--The Salvadoran fisherman who says he survived 13 months adrift in the Pacific has passed a lie detector test proving his tale is true, his lawyer said Friday.

A U.S.-based law firm representing Jose Salvador Alvarenga said a psychological exam and the polygraph test showed that the 37-year-old Salvadoran man was telling the truth.

Alvarenga made global headlines after his small open boat washed ashore in the Marshall Islands in January, more than a year after he disappeared off the southwestern coast of Mexico, where he lived for many years.

He told reporters after his rescue that he had survived by eating raw fish and bird flesh while keeping hydrated by drinking rain water, turtle blood and his own urine. He also said he sheltered himself from the sun under a cooler.

The Salvadoran fisherman says his 24-year-old Mexican crew mate, Ezequiel Cordova, died four months into their ordeal because he could not stomach the diet. He pushed his companion's body into the sea.

“We have listened to Mr. Alvarenga's story and we concluded that, in addition to being epic, it is 100 percent real,” said Jeffrey Masonek, head of U.S.-based Masonek Law Offices.

Salvadoran lawyer Jose Barrera said Alvarenga took the lie detector test on Wednesday and that the descriptions told by the sea survivor “are completely true and linked to reality.”

Maria Elena Revelo, a doctor hired by the law firm to conduct an 82-question psychological exam, also told a news conference that Alvarenga “is not lying” and that his story is “coherent.”

The law firm presented pictures of Alvarenga's seven-meter (23-foot) fiberglass boat, showing that it was labeled with the name of his Mexican village's fishing cooperative, “Camaroneros de la Costa,” along with a license number.

After his 12,500-kilometer (8,000-mile) voyage, Alvarenga's story initially drew skepticism but his fellow fishermen in Mexico and officials in his homeland have said they believed him.

A February study by the University of Hawaii of ocean winds and currents in the Pacific during the time Alvarenga claimed to have been at sea supports his improbable tale.

Another lawyer, Carlos Guzman, said Alvarenga has received many offers for the rights to his story.

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