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Heinz leads search for man who survived a month at sea eating ketchup

Heinz has launched a search for Elvis Francois, a man who survived on nothing but ketchup and spices while he was drifting at sea for 24 days.

The company announced in an Instagram post that they want to locate Mr Francois to help him get a new boat.

“To whoever finds this message, we need your help tracking down an amazing man with an amazing story. You may remember Elvis Francois as the brave sailor who survived on nothing but ketchup and spices while adrift at sea for 24 days. Well, Heinz wants to celebrate his safe return home and help him buy a new boat...but we can’t seem to find him,” the company wrote in the Instagram post.

“So, we’re sending this message adrift into the sea of the internet, because if anyone can help us find him, it’s you,” they added. “If you or anyone you know can help us get in contact with Elvis Francois, please drop us a DM. Sincerely, Heinz.”

Mr Francois was on his boat in St Maarten in the Caribbean in December when he started to drift at sea by accident after the weather conditions changed quickly. He was later rescued by the Colombian Navy and they published a video in which Mr Francois said that he had lost the ability to navigate.

“I tried to [go] back to port, but I lost track because it took me a while to mount the sail and fix the sail,” he said following his rescue. “...I call my friends, my coworkers. They tried to contact me, but they lost service. There was nothing else I could do than sit down and wait.”

He wrote “help” on the back of his boat and was rescued after 24 days at sea, surviving only with “a bottle of ketchup...garlic powder and Maggi [soup]”.

“So, I mixed it up with some water so I had this to survive for 24 days in the sea,” he added.

Heinz made the initial post a week ago. Five days ago, they had limited their search to Dominica, writing in a subsequent Instagram caption that “Elvis Francois could be anywhere in Dominica. So, we’re turning to you, internet, to help us track him down so we can celebrate his safe return and help him buy a new boat. If you or anyone you know can help us get in contact with Elvis Francois, please drop us a comment below”.

Four days ago, Heinz wrote that “we’ve reached an impasse in our search for Elvis Francois, but we know he’s still out there”. The company said they have reached out to “several Elvis impersonators,” the “government of Dominica,” and “the Colombian Navy”.

Elvis Francois, 47, is checked by Columbian naval medical personnel after spending 24 days lost at sea (Columbian Navy handout)
Elvis Francois, 47, is checked by Columbian naval medical personnel after spending 24 days lost at sea (Columbian Navy handout)

Heinz told CBS News on Tuesday that the company wants to give Mr Francois a “new state-of-the-art boat” which they say will be “equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future”.

The company said Heinz markets “around the world” are taking part in the effort to find Mr Francois.

“We’re hoping to spread the word far and wide so Heinz can finally gift the new boat to Elvis,” Heinz told CBS.

After drifting out to sea, Mr Francois was located by the navy in the Caribbean Sea around 120 nautical miles from Puerto Bolívar. They responded after being made aware of the “help” message on the hull.

The navy said Mr Francois told them that he had been close to Saint Maarten in the Antilles islands repairing his boat when the weather got worse and he was taken out to sea. The authorities said he became lost and disoriented.

Following his rescue, he was taken to the Port of Cartagena to get medical care and to start the journey back to Dominica, according to the navy.

Captain Carlos Urano Montes, a Colombian Army commander, said Mr Francois “was found to be in good health,” according to CBS.

In an email to The Independent, Heinz said that in addition to the Colombian navy, they contacted Dominica immigration services, but haven’t been able to locate Mr Francois.

“Now, we’re taking our search to the masses. We posted a virtual ‘message in a bottle’ on Instagram asking the general public to try and help with the hunt. We’re also asking for any credible leads to contact Elvis so we can help cover a new boat equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future,” a spokesperson said. “The hunt has also gone international, as other Heinz markets around the world are going to be getting involved, sharing out the CTA to spread the word to try and #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy.”