A tourist from North Macedonia survived for 18 hours at sea earlier this month after being swept offshore by strong currents near Kassandra, Greece.
Thirty-year-old Ivan, whose last name was not released, was part of a group of three men who had been swept into the Aegean Sea by the currents on July 9, the Daily Mail reported.
When Ivan’s friends reached out to the coast guard after he was pulled into the sea, the coast guard could not locate him, Global News reported.
Just as Ivan feared that everything was lost, a small soccer ball lost by two brothers — 11-year-old Tryphon and 6-year-old Thanos (last names not given) — drifted toward him.
Tryphon and Thanos were playing soccer on Evgatis Beach in Lemnos, Greece, 80 miles away 10 days earlier when tides took the ball away.
In an attempt to save himself, Ivan clung to the ball for 18 hours until a Greek Air Force helicopter noticed him drifting in the waters on July 10 — ball still in hand, the Daily Mail reported.
Kassandra mayor Anastasia Chalkia shared pictures of the rescued man and the ball in a July 10 post 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,” Chalkia said. “Investigations continue to locate a third missing person.”
“The young man found a ball that saved his life as he helped him when he got tired,” the mayor said of Ivan.
According to Global News, rescue workers are still looking for Martin Jovanovski — the third person who is missing. The second tourist was rescued.
This summer, 60 people already have died in Greece due to drowning, the newspaper reported, citing Marios Myronakis, president of the Association of Rescue Schools of Greece.
At highest risk are people over the age of 60, according to the Greek City Times. Myronakis said that in 2021, out of 336 drowning victims nationally, 275 were over age 60, according to Greek City Times.
“I would advise all older people – in addition to the usual not to eat or drink before swimming – to go to beaches where there is a lifeguard and heed the advice. If they go to a beach where there are no lifeguards, they should not swim alone,” Myronakis said.
“They should always be in company. And if there are health problems, then they should not move away from the coast in order to avoid unpleasant situations.”
Myronakis further said that if someone’s friend or relative faces danger in the water, the best course of action would be to “not put ourselves in danger,” Greek City Times reported.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.