As Storm Raged Through Acapulco, One Man's Last Message

'It's really horrible,' sailor Ruben Torres recorded himself saying as Hurricane Otis struck Mexico
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 14, 2023 1:14 PM CST
His Final Message During Storm: 'It's Really Horrible'
Rescuers dive in search of bodies, weeks after the passing of Hurricane Otis, in Acapulco, Mexico, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

During the first minutes of Oct. 25, when Hurricane Otis roared into Acapulco Bay with 165mph winds, sailor Ruben Torres recorded a 10-second audio message from a yacht called the Sereno. "All things considered, I'm all right, but it's really horrible, it's really horrible, it's really horrible," he said over the howling wind and the boat's beeping alarms. "Family, I don't want to exaggerate, but pray for us, because it's really awful out here." The Sereno was one of 614 boats—yachts, ferries, fishing boats—that according to Mexico's Navy were in the bay that night and ended up damaged or on the ocean floor. Of those aboard the Sereno, one person survived, while Torres and the boat's captain remain missing, per the AP.

Otis killed at least 48 people, and some 26 are officially missing. Sailors, fishermen, and their families believe there are many more. Sailors in the region typically board their boats during a storm rather than stay on land where they'd be safe, so that they can bring the boats to sheltered parts of Acapulco Bay instead of leaving them where a storm could slam them against docks and do damage. But Otis was no normal storm. When sailors went to sea that day, no one expected that the tropical storm would strengthen to a Category 5 hurricane in 12 hours and make a direct hit on Acapulco, leaving no part of the bay safe.

Susana Ramos, the wife of Ruben Torres, heard her husband's message only days later. Torres' family knew his routine when a hurricane approached: He went aboard to help care for the boat, and the crew sailed it near the naval base in an area more protected by mountains that ring the bay. Around 7pm local time on Oct. 24, Torres spoke to his oldest son, now 14. Ramos overheard him describe how it looked then, with whole hillsides in Acapulco going dark as the power started to fail. But Torres said he had his life jacket at the ready and the engines going in case.

story continues below

Alejandro Martinez Sidney, a business leader and member of a fishing cooperative, has been hearing the accounts of surviving sailors. He said they were caught by surprise at the storm's sudden strength. By the time alerts went out warning them to beach their boats, "it was too late." Ramos' life now consists of a daily visit to the morgue, where samples of her children's DNA have been taken. She hopes that by Nov. 17, when her husband would turn 33, they will have news. "It would be really great if they told me, at least, there he is; a miracle if they would tell me, he's hospitalized there, come ... and I would carry him back." Read the full story.

(More missing person stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.