Man who survived at sea for weeks on ketchup speaks out

While drifting, he ate ketchup three times a day, he said.

March 1, 2023, 8:03 PM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- After surviving on ketchup while lost at sea for weeks, Elvis Francois said he is hoping a ketchup company's social media search for him can lead to easier days ahead.

"I'm kind of stressed out," Francois told ABC News, from Paix Bouche, a village located in the northern part of Dominica.

Francois said he had just finished a virtual meeting with officials from The Kraft Heinz Company, the maker of Heinz ketchup.

PHOTO: Elvis Francois receives a cellphone from Flow.
Elvis Francois receives a cellphone from Flow.
Emerline Anselm - CEO, EmoNews

"They say they’re going to organize, to see how I could get something," Francois said.

The company just days earlier sent out a social media SOS, with the hashtag #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy, trying to find him.

Francois, a 47-year-old Dominican native had spent 24 days drifting in the Caribbean Sea.

That drift began on a December day, as Francois was repairing his boat at a port in Saint Martin. While drifting, he said he ate ketchup three times a day. Seaweed and sea water also became part of his diet to stay alive.

"If I didn't have those things I wouldn't have made it," Francois told ABC News. "At a certain time I had kind of given up, I had no hope."

A plane spotted Francois in waters off the northen tip of Colombia. Pilots notified Colombian authorities, who then radioed a large cargo ship.

PHOTO: Elvis Francois
Elvis Francois
Emerline Anselm - CEO, EmoNews

After he was rescued, authorities sent him back to Dominica. A fire had destroyed Francois' home in the fishing village of Anse De Mai, Dominica, a year ago. He said he lost everything, and left the island in search of a better life. He ended up in Saint Martin.

He now sleeps in what's left of his burned-down house.

"I just blocked up a side, and that's how I'm living for the time," Francois said.

"Trying to go in the market, and see if I could sell produce, but after a year there's nothing much in the soil," he added.

Heinz's social media search ended after Dominican news outlet EmoNews was able to track down Francois.

"Heinz was able to contact Elvis and discuss the best way to help support him and his family," said a Kraft Heinz spokesperson, Jenna Thornton. "Heinz and Elvis are working out the logistical details of gifting him his new boat," she said.

Francois told ABC News he's hoping the helping hand from the American company comes soon, and that he needs a financial lifeline to survive now that he's back on land.

"There's a lot of other things I need, because for the moment, I'm at zero," he said.