On 19 January 2023, the Colombian navy rescued a man named Elvis Francois who claimed that he had been lost at sea, alone, for 24 days and that he had survived on ketchup, garlic powder and Maggi cubes. According to the Navy, the 47-year-old was working to repair a sailboat off a harbour on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in December last year when the weather turned foul and he was swept out to sea, AFP reported. To avoid sinking, he had to manually remove water from his boat. In a video released by the Colombian Navy, Francois has outlined his ordeal. "24 days, no land. Nobody to talk to. Don't know what to do. Don't know where you are. It was rough. A certain time I lose hope. I think about my family." He tried to start a small fire onboard, in the form of a distress signal, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
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He also carved the word "help" on the hull of his boat, which proved to be more effective. Francois explained, "The final days, about the 15th of January, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals," he said, demonstrating how he positioned the glass to catch the sunlight. "They passed over the boat twice so I realised they saw me," he continued. "I am grateful for being alive today because of them." According to AFP, the aircraft crew informed the Navy, who then rescued Francois with the help of a merchant ship. However, he had to leave his own boat behind.
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On 14 February, Pittsburgh-based ketchup company Heinz launched a social media campaign called #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy. An Instagram post on the company's official page read, "Heinz wants to celebrate his safe return home and help him buy a new boat... but we can't seem to find him. So, we're setting this message adrift into the sea of the internet, because if anyone can help us find him, it's you. If you or anyone you know can help us get in contact with Elvis Francois, please drop us a DM." The campaign quickly went viral.
After hearing about this campaign, Emo News, a media outlet based in Dominica, tracked Francois down on the Caribbean island and thus helped Heinz get in touch with him. On 27 February, Heinz posted a statement on their Instagram page thanking the internet for their efforts. Here is what they said:
On 28 February, Heinz issued a separate statement to the Guardian that said the company and Mr Francois "are working out the logistical details of [getting] him his new boat." The Guardian also reported that, in an interview with Emo News, Francois said he "didn't know what to think" about Heinz's initiative, but he seemed open to the idea, adding "I lost all that I had on the boat."
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