Man on raft says he's from U.S.

Published April 23, 2006

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Swedish authorities Saturday were investigating how a man calling himself a "stateless American" ended up on a raft of oil barrels and wood planks in the waters between Denmark and Norway.

The man - who carried no identification, spoke perfect English and said his name was George Williams - was found by a Norwegian oil tanker Friday morning, floating in the Skagerak sea on a raft of four oil barrels held together by a frame of wooden planks.

He told police he had been thrown from a ship several days earlier and now wanted to go to New York, but offered little further information.

He asked to be taken in by Swedish authorities, and shielded his face from photographers when he was taken to a port in southern Sweden.

"If he was thrown off a ship, they must have thrown off the raft for him to sit on as well, so I don't know," Swedish marine police spokesman Bengt Albinsson said. The man claimed to be a "stateless American" born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1959, police spokesman Thomas Fuxborg told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

"He says he has lived for a long time in the USA, but does not want to say where," Fuxborg said. "He has worked in Europe, but does not want to say where and with what." The man was taken to a hospital in southern Sweden to be treated for dehydration and a frostbitten foot, but did not seem seriously injured, authorities said.

He will be held until Monday, when authorities will contact the U.S. Embassy to try to confirm his identity, Fuxborg said.