Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Mexico's lost fishermen reunited with families

AP , SAN BLAS, MEXICO

The three Mexican fishermen who say they survived nine months adrift faced another storm on arrival in Mexico City -- this time of raucous welcomes and throngs of reporters asking for the lurid details of their odyssey.

From the moment the men appeared at the Mexico City airport on Friday morning -- the last leg of a series of flights that brought them from the Marshall Islands -- the three men issued vehement denials when reporters asked whether they had been involved in drug smuggling or had resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Despite having nearly starved to death at sea, survivor Lucio Rendon, 28, made only a brief appearance at a celebratory feast of beer and roast goat in his home town of San Blas, the Pacific coast fishing town from which the three claim they set out last October.

After about 20 minutes of greeting people who lined up to shake his hand, Rendon excused himself from the party, saying he was tired, and went to his home nearby.

The long day began at an early-morning press conference at the airport.

At the conference, survivor Je-sus Vidana, whose four-month-old daughter was born while he was at sea, sought to dispel doubts about their tale of survival. All three fishermen offered to take a lie detector test.

"I hope what happened to us doesn't happen to them," Vidana said. "Personally, I'm just grateful that I'm here alive."

From the news conference, Vidana returned to his native state of Sinaloa.

In what may be the first time in months the three have been sep-arated, fellow survivor Jesus Ordonez traveled to his native state of Oaxaca.

Asked what he planned to do next, Ordonez replied: ``See the family for three or four days, and then get back to work.''

Rendon spent the most time in the media spotlight, first traveling to Tepic, the capital of his native Pacific coast state of Nayarit, where he was met by a brass band, the local Catholic bishop, state officials and sobbing family members who embraced him in an emotional group hug.

"I'm crying from both nerves and joy," Rendon's mother, Noemi Becerra, said, tears welling up in her eyes in the moments before her son's plane landed.

"It's like I'm going to see him for the first time. It's as if he's being born all over again."

He and his relatives later traveled from Tepic to San Blas, where hundreds of residents lined the main street of the little fishing town to welcome his arrival, and attended a mass in which a priest thanked God for his safe return.

Mexico's attorney general said there is no evidence that there was anything suspicious about the case.

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