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Saturday, June 22, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`I Wasn't Ready To Die' -- Bellevue Woman Saved After 10 Hours In Sea

Floating half-naked, Simone Scialdo decided she wasn't going to let the Adriatic Sea become her tomb.

"I wasn't ready to die," said Scialdo, 21, of Bellevue, in a telephone interview yesterday from her Corfu, Greece, hospital bed where she was recovering from spending 15 to 17 hours in the Adriatic after falling off the Italian ferry Espresso Venezia Wednesday.

"I haven't been much of a religious person, but I prayed a lot," she said of her survival. "I thought to myself I was too young . . . I couldn't picture dying there in the water."

Scialdo, a senior business major at Washington State University, was in Italy with an exchange program and was with friends sailing from Brindisi, Italy, to the southwestern Greek port of Patras. That day she met a man named Larry Wellborn and the two hit it off.

"He was kidding, lifting me up, putting me up on the (ferry's) railing," Scialdo said. "I started slipping and he tried to pull me back on and he came with me."

The two fell about 40 feet into the water.

"We were yelling for the boat," she said. "We watched it go off in the distance."

Scialdo had hit her mouth during the fall, chipping some teeth and splitting her lip and was bleeding.

Wellborn quickly told Scialdo to swallow the blood because they "didn't want to have blood around because of sharks."

Scialdo said she tried to stay calm but that Wellborn seem to panic a little. The two stripped off most of their clothes and began to try and swim to an island they saw off in the distance.

She said they soon realized that it was too far and decided to float and tread water to save energy. Scialdo is a strong swimmer and swam sprint events for the Newport High School team.

The two would take turns half-sleeping.

"We were pretty supportive of each other," she said, adding that she said Wellborn told her that he would marry her after they were saved.

"We talked about our wedding plans, mostly humorously, to keep going."

After about six hours in the water, Scialdo woke from a brief nap. She yelled for Wellborn. He wasn't there.

His body has not been recovered, and he is presumed drowned.

Scialdo said she continued to float half-conscious and would think about family and friends. Floating in her bra and shorts Scialdo said she rarely got cold in the water.

Finally, after about 10 hours in the sea, an Austrian yacht, the Sir Thomas, happened by and she was rescued.

"I think it was a miracle that boat found me," she said. "It was fate."

Recovering from exhaustion and severe sunburn, Scialdo said she still is coming to grips with what happened.

"I couldn't even grasp it," she said. "I thought it couldn't be happening. It still doesn't seem to be real."

She said the hardest part is dealing with the the fact she survived and Wellborn, who was living in Frankfurt, Germany, didn't.

"I have guilt and I'm trying to deal with that," she said. "I feel bad for his family and friends with what they are going through."

She added, "It was mine and Larry's fault. Probably more Larry's fault, but I don't mind taking half the blame."

Scialdo's family said that a sorority sister from WSU tried to tell the ferry's captain that the two were missing, but he took no action. The incident still is under investigation by Greek officials.

"I'm just so proud of her. I'm awed," said a relieved mother, Wyman Gale Scialdo. "My daughter and I are close. She's my best buddy."

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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