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'His life was in God's hands' - wife's terror as windsurfer swept out to sea

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Keen windsurfer Lorenzo Cubeddu found his survival skills came in useful when he drifted out to sea

Keen windsurfer Lorenzo Cubeddu found his survival skills came in useful when he drifted out to sea

Keen windsurfer Lorenzo Cubeddu found his survival skills came in useful when he drifted out to sea

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 on Sunday after he was last seen at 3.30pm by a local fisherman.

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

But it was not until 11pm that his wife Amanda received the incredible news that her husband was alive and well in Kilkee, Co Clare.

Mr Cubeddu's survival skills saved his life after he leapt from his surfboard on to 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.

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Lorenzo's long way round

Lorenzo's long way round

Lorenzo's long way round

The watersport enthusiast, who works in SuperValu, Ballybunion, was then taken to University Hospital Limerick, where he is being treated for dehydration.

Perilous

In an emotional interview, Ms Cubeddu described 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.

"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 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 board on to the jagged rocks 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 Italian national climbed to the top of the cliff in Kilkee and believed he was in the middle of nowhere.

"He began to wander the fields and felt hypothermia kicking in," Ms Cubeddu said.

"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 Mr Cubeddu before he took off, grew concerned once he lost sight of him and rang his boss at SuperValu, who alerted the Coast Guard.

The Shannon-based search and rescue helicopter, Rescue 115, was tasked to the scene along with the Ballybunion unit of the Irish Coast Guard and Kilrush RNLI.

The Fenit RNLI lifeboat was also sent to the area, while the Naval Service vessel LE Niamh, which was in the area at the time, was also requested to assist in the search.

"Once I received the news, it was like the entire world closed in on me," added Ms Cubeddu. "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," she said. "There was a huge celebration among all those that participated in the rescue. Even one of the guards was crying.

"I immediately made my way to hospital and when I saw him lying there, I embraced him and realised that we received a miracle."

She said he was in a good condition and was undergoing a series of tests and treatments for dehydration.

"This experience has changed our lives forever," she said. "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."

Frightening

Charlie Glynn, of Kilrush RNLI, said the man "had to have been an experienced windsurfer who was wearing the correct clothing and gear and who knew what to do when he got into difficulty".

He said the RNLI "wish him well for a full and speedy recovery following what must have been a frightening experience" and that everyone taking to the sea should "always respect the water".

"Always carry a means for calling for help, such as a personal locator beacon, especially if you are on your own. It could be a lifesaver," he said.

"Always tell someone you are going out and when you will be back.

"Make sure they know where you are sailing and who to call if you are not back in time."


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