Tuesday, 6 Dec 2022

'The worst seven hours of my life' – Wife tells of windsurfer's 'miraculous' journey to safety

A windsurfer who spent a treacherous seven hours lost at sea “put his life in God’s hands” as he drifted 25 miles around the west coast of Ireland.

Lorenzo Cubeddu (59) from Inch East, Co Kerry was reported missing off Ballybunion yesterday after he was last seen at 3.30pm by a local fisherman. 

The alarm was then raised when he failed to return to shore, which initiated a major multi-agency search and rescue operation.

Later that night, at 11pm, his wife Amanda received the incredible news that her husband was alive and well in Kilkee, Co Clare.

However, it was his own survival skills that saved his life after Mr Cubeddu leapt from his sail onto the jagged cliffs in Kilkee.

He then wandered in the dark until he came across a mobile home, whose occupier alerted the authorities of his whereabouts. 

The lucky watersport enthusiast, who works in Supervalu, Ballybunion, was then transported to University Hospital Limerick, where he is now being treated for dehydration. 

In an emotional interview, Ms Cubeddu described the details of her husband’s perilous ordeal during what she described as “the worst seven hours of my life”. 

“I’m still shaking with relief and joy,” she said. 

“Lorenzo has been windsurfing for over 30 years and nothing like this has ever happened before. He’s always so careful, but his nightmare began once the wind around Ballybunion suddenly dropped – leaving him unable to return to the shore.

“He’s always so careful, but his nightmare began once the wind around Ballybunion suddenly dropped – leaving him unable to return to the shore.

“It was pitch black and there was nothing around him but water so he ditched his sail as it was no use to him any more.

“He then lay down and hoped the current would take him back to shore, but instead he drifted further and further away.

“At one stage, the rescue helicopter passed by but failed to see him. It was at this stage that Lorenzo knew his life was in God’s hands.

“He then said to himself ‘God, please use your power to save me’. He then felt his presence and was perfectly at peace.

“Hours then passed and he felt himself being pushed close to a cliff. He knew that leaping from his sail onto the jagged rocked was the only way to shore so he took a chance that could have cost him his life.”

Using all the strength he had left, the 59-year-old Italian national climbed to the top of the cliff in Kilkee and found himself in the middle of nowhere.

“He began to wander the fields and felt hypothermia kicking in. At one stage, he got an electric shock trying to climb a fence and wondered if he was better off back in the sea.

“But in the distance, he spotted the light of a mobile home and made his way to it in his weakened state. An old man answered and was in shock by the sight of him, but soon realised that he needed immediate help.

“He then alerted the authorities, who arrived at the scene in no time at all.”

A local fisherman, who talked to Lorenzo before he took off, grew concerned once he lost sight of him and rang his boss at Supervalu, who then alerted the coast guard.

“Once I received the news, it was like the entire world closed in on me. The only thing I could do was pray that he would be found.”

Ms Cubeddu said she never gave up hope, but when two gardai arrived at her friend’s home she braced herself for the worst news imaginable.

“When they told me that Lorenzo was found safe and well I just couldn’t believe it and cried with joy – there was a huge celebration among all those that participated in the rescue.

“I immediately made my way to University Hospital Limerick and when I saw him lying there I embraced him and realised that we received a miracle.”

“He’s in good condition and is undergoing a series of tests and treatments for dehydration – he should be back to his old self in no time. 

“This experience has changed our lives forever. I don’t know if I’ll ever like to see him windsurf again, but I’ll worry about that another day.

“I have so many people to thank, including those that participated in the rescue and the fisherman who alerted Lorenzo’s boss of his disappearance.

“Cormac and Elaine Cahill, who are the proprietors at SuperValu in Ballybunion were amazing to me during the search. They really helped me to comfort me and it was through their constant support and reassurance that kept me going.”

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