Sapped of his strength and running low on hope, with sharks circling in the Pacific, Jorge Bello made a resolution: He would not be eaten alive.
If he felt a shark’s teeth ripping into his flesh, he decided, he would slit his own throat with a knife and be done with the torment - and, just possibly, save the lives of his two companions.
“I have seen what a shark can do, and I didn’t want that to happen to me while I was living,” Bello recalled Saturday. “Besides, I thought if the sharks were busy with me it would give the others a chance to survive.”
Instead, Bello and his two colleagues lived to tell the tale of the shipwreck of their 25-foot wooden fishing boat in stormy seas last Sunday 40 miles west of Acapulco, Mexico. After 55 hours adrift on floating debris, the trio was literally saved by Magic - an appropriately named Dutch freighter that spotted the Mexican fishermen.
The three who have scratches, burns and bumps, but no serious injuries recounted their saga at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles.
The fishermen, who were the only ones aboard the sinking vessel, are due to return today to their home in Acapulco, where grieving relatives had already assumed they were dead, the latest area fishermen to perish in a high-risk occupation.
Indeed, the three were not far from the end when the crew of the Magic spotted them waving frantically about 8 a.m. Tuesday. They had had no fresh water or food for more than two days, suffered from a scorching sun and chilly nights, and hung desperately to a floating gasoline tank and, later, a filled plastic garbage bag that miraculously appeared and provided a kind of life raft.
And then there were the ominous sharks, whose dorsal fins proved an unnerving sight as the three clung to life amid a pounding storm that lashed them with 12-foot waves.
Ironically, the three are shark fisherman - and, indeed, were heading back to Acapulco with more than 600 pounds of iced shark when the storm swamped their modest fishing vessel.
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