Stray Inflatable Ball Saves Stranded Swimmer, Lost At Sea For 18 Hours
CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 15: Actor and Cleveland Guardians fan Tom Hanks holds his co-star Wilson before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the home opener against the San Francisco Giants at Progressive Field on April 15, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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In a turn of events that played out like a real-life homage to the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway,” a partially-inflated ball played a starring role in saving a stranded swimmer.

A North-Macedonian vacationer known only as Ivan, 30, was reportedly swept out to sea on July 10, while swimming with friends near Myti Beach in Kassandra, Greece — but a child’s toy came to the rescue just in time, allowing him to survive some 18 hours alone in the water before he was rescued.

According to local reports, Ivan and a friend, Martin Jovanovski, got caught up in strong currents near the coast and were swept away — and although several friends who had gone to the beach with them quickly notified the Coast Guard of the situation, the two beach-goers were eventually declared “lost at sea.”

On Sunday, July 11, — 18 hours after his friends had seen the two men get whisked away by the current — rescuers were finally able to locate Ivan and a Greek Coast Guard helicopter was able to pull him from the water.

With Ivan when he was pulled from the sea was a small inflatable ball that he said he had used to stay afloat after it drifted toward him in the water. Even though the ball had not been fully inflated when it reached him, Ivan said it had been just enough to help him keep his head above the waves.

Anastasia Chalkia, Mayor of Kassandra, posed with Ivan and his father — and the ball — after he was brought ashore. And as the photo began to circulate in the media, a woman recognized it as the same ball that her two sons had lost while playing on the beach ten days earlier.

Her sons Tryphon, 11, and Thanos, 6, had lost their ball nearly two weeks earlier while playing on Evgatis Beach — on the Greek island of Lemnos — when the waves had swept it out of their reach and then out to sea.

Somehow the ball drifted another 80 miles — and, fortunately, into Ivan’s path — in the ten days after the boys lost it on June 30.

Ivan was treated at a nearby hospital and released, but his friend, Martin Jovanovski, was still lost at sea at the time he was rescued.

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