A tourist to Greece has a soccer ball to thank after he survived 18 hours at sea by clinging to the half-deflated piece of sports equipment.
The 30-year-old tourist, named only as Ivan, was enjoying some time at the beach in Kassandra, Greece, when a powerful current swept him out to sea, reports local media.
As he went adrift, his friends tried to alert the coast guard, but it was too late — they were unable to find him.
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Luckily for Ivan, who was visiting from North Macedonia, he was saved when he spotted a small soccer ball floating toward him and was able to cling on.
He spent 18 hours at sea before rescuers pulled him from the water on Sunday, reports Serbian news site, Telegraf.
Astonishingly, the ball that Ivan used to survive has been traced to a pair of Greek children who had been playing with the ball 10 days earlier on the Greek island of Lemnos. The children lost the ball when it ended up in the ocean and was swept away by the tides.
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What’s even more amazing is that the ball bobbed almost 130 kilometres in that time, before it converged with a desperate Ivan.
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According to Romanian media outlet Stiridiaspora, Ivan was spotted by a Greek Air Force helicopter that was looking for him and another friend, who remains missing.
The mayor of Kassandra, Anastasia Chalkia, shared a photo posing with the ball alongside Ivan’s father outside a hospital.
She also paid a visit to a recovering Ivan in hospital.
“I had constant information on the course of the rescue and am very happy about the smooth ending of the young man’s adventure,” she wrote in a translated post.
She wrote that rescuers continue to search for the other missing man, Martin Jovanovski.
According to Telegraf, Martin’s brother, Goran, will arrive in Greece on Friday to help search for his missing brother. Goran told the outlet he “will move the earth and heaven” to find his brother and “will mobilize everything necessary.”
Several vessels of the Greek Coast Guard, a helicopter, as well as a land vehicle and local volunteers are participating in the search.
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