Wife of miracle windsurfer Lorenzo tells of his extraordinary nighttime battle for survival
He had given up the ghost. Helplessly adrift in the pitch black waters just moments after thinking he was finally saved, Lorenzo Cubeddu (59) lay back on the board in prayer to the maker he resigned himself to meeting.
As wife Amanda recounted, the Sardinian native suddenly felt a deep sense of peace wash over him as he accepted his end.
Just moments earlier he had watched the Shannon Coastguard Helicopter approaching nearby, anticipating his salvation as it swept the waters. "He thought he was saved, but when it passed by without finding him Lorenzo just said 'this is it now, this is the end'. He then prayed to God and said he felt an incredible peace come over him," wife Amanda told The Kerryman on Monday.
Lorenzo went out at 3.30pm on Sunday for the kind of afternoon's windsurfing excursion he regularly enjoyed. But the wind suddenly and unexpectedly dropped, leaving him helplessly adrift too far out to get back as the outing turned deadly.
"It got dark fast too, but thank God for a local fisherman Lorenzo had spoken to on his way out. That fisherman, Mike Enright, who I cannot thank enough, noticed that Lorenzo was in trouble and raised the alarm."
A massive response was launched, as the Shannon Coastguard Helicopter Rescue 115, the Fenit and Kilrush RNLI as well as the Irish Navy's LE Niamh co-ordinated the night-time search along the North Kerry waters. Lorenzo slipped the net, however.
"He followed the guidelines to the letter which really helped him. He had ditched the sail, and knew to keep to his board, he wasn't afraid and said at one point he saw fluorescent lights in the water and took great comfort from it."
Lorenzo was also able to keep his bearings from the lights along the Clare coast. After seven hours at sea, and having travelled 25 nautical miles along the current, taking him beyond Loop Head he suddenly realised he was being dragged onto the rocks by the tide.
"He knew then to ditch the board as it could have seriously injured him coming onto the rocks and he actually jumped into the water. He said it was as if he was then almost picked out of the water, washing up onto a ledge at the base of cliffs. In his hypothermic state he somehow managed to climb the cliffs. Luckily, he had decided to wear his wetsuit boots and a beanie hat going out and the boots made all the difference on the climb," Amanda said.
Lorenzo found himself in the middle of nowhere and started walking - getting shocked by an electric fence at one point before ultimately coming to a remote mobile home where a sole elderly resident raised the alarm.
Back in a friend's home near their house in Inch East, Lisselton, Amanda was maintaining a frantic vigil; she saw the gardaí arriving sometime after 11pm: "It was either they were going to say 'we've found a body' or 'we have a life' and thank God it was 'we have a life'. I have faith too and I kept praying to God. Your mind goes to 'ok, if there's a body coming in I have to be ready for this'. I couldn't believe it when I heard he had been found alive. He's a living miracle!"
Amanda said he was 'humbled' by the response of the emergency services and locals, in an experience that renewed her faith in humanity as much as having reaffirmed her faith in God.
"Everyone, from Lorenzo's employer Cormac Cahill at Supervalu in Ballybunion, who had to break the news to me that he was missing earlier, to the gardaí, the Coastguard, the Navy, the Ballybunion Coastguard and Sea Rescue service, the Fenit Lifeboat...I just don't have words to express our thanks. The response was a sight to behold."
The hardy Sardinian surfer - who turns 60 in February - is continuing to make a great recovery at Limerick Regional Hospital; assured of a hero's welcome on his return home to North Kerry.