ATHENS – In a scene right out of a movie, a tourist in Greece who was washed out to sea survived for 18 hours and was saved when a beachball floated by and he clung onto it for dear life before being spotted by an Air Force helicopter.
He was identified only as Ivan, 30, from North Macedonia, who was swimming at Myti Beach in Kassandra on the northern peninsula of Halkidiki, one of three men swept out by fast-moving currents.
He had been declared missing at sea, jumping in to help two friends struggling in the water, one of whom perished while the other is still missing.
He said the half-inflated ball saved his life as it kept him afloat and able to breathe easier without struggling even though it was only the size of a melon.
It belonged to two brothers who lost it two days earlier while playing on Evgatis beach on Lemnos Island when it was swept away by tides.
Their mother recognized the ball when it showed on a news story on Greek TV and Ivan held it while posing for a photo with his father and Mayor Anastasia Chalkia mayor outside a medical center.
Chalkia wrote on Facebook: “I had constant information on the course of the rescue and am very happy about the smooth ending of the young man’s adventure. Investigations continue to locate a third missing person.
“I hope the third boy will be found alive very quickly. The young man found a ball that saved his life as it helped him when he got tired.
“Thanks to the port, the EKAB (National Centres for Emergency Care) and the Kassandra Health Center, the air force, the Greek police, the fishermen’s boats of Nea Skioni, the two boats sailing in the area, all the rescue teams and the volunteers,” she said of the effort to find him in the sea.